Vincent van GoghSelf-Portrait


Van Gogh presented himself in this self-portrait as a painter, holding a palette and paintbrushes behind his easel. He showed that he was a modern artist by using a new painting style, with bright, almost unblended colours. The palette contains the complementary colour pairs red/green, yellow/purple and blue/orange – precisely the colours Van Gogh used for this painting. He laid these pairs down side by side to intensify one another: the blue of his smock, for instance, and the orange-red of his beard.

Self-Portrait as a Painter was the last work Van Gogh produced in Paris; the city had exhausted him both mentally and physically. He told his sister Wil how he had portrayed himself: ‘wrinkles in forehead and around the mouth, stiffly wooden, a very red beard, quite unkempt and sad’.


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Vincent Willem van Gogh, 1853 – 1890, was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life in France, where he died. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.