Anh Duong has a face Picasso would have loved. The lift of that left eyebrow. The imperious profile. Ears akin to orchids. Born in 1960, the daughter of a Spanish mother and a Vietnamese father, Duong at first wanted to be a ballerina. Dancing in Paris, however, she was soon drawn into modeling and muse-dom—discovered by David Seidner, no less, and inspiring the couturier Christian Lacroix. In the mid-80s, Duong walked international runways and her face graced the glossies. But the life of the muse was not for her. In 1988 she moved to New York City and became an artist. On June 8, her first solo show in Switzerland opens at Galerie Gmurzynska Zurich, titled “La Tentation d’Exister, There Is Always Champagne in the Fridge.”

Duong in a Christian Lacroix haute couture cocktail dress and hat, at the designer’s spring-summer 1988 fashion show in Paris.

Duong loved to draw and paint, and did so as a child in Bordeaux. In New York, she began painting still lifes and portraits, but predominantly she painted self-portraits. “It was about painting something that was always available,” she told Lineal in March, “and then, of course, it became much more than that: I realized it was a perfect vehicle to express inner feelings.” She’d become a muse to herself.

Duong uses a true mirror—a reflection of a reflection—to see her face exactly as it is. She does not sketch but relies on the energy of the brushstroke to carry the image. She relishes rawness, and on canvas she can be found in torn jeans or lace underwear or nothing at all. Her investigation into the self has led to comparisons with Frida Kahlo, while her unsparing honesty is more in the realm of Lucian Freud. Duong’s intensity is Expressionist, and those huge dark eyes do not let you go. —Laura Jacobs