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Vincent's self-portraits

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam houses an astonishing series of self-portraits by the artist. In 1887, Vincent was in Paris where he unexpectedly joined his brother Theo a year earlier. He enrolled in Fernand Cormon's studio where he worked for 3 months from the model. His palette takes on light shades, the colors are frank and lively, he meets Paul Gauguin and Camille Pissarro, but also artists of the rising generation such as Émile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Vincent Van Gogh. Autoportrait au chapeau noir. 1887. Musée Van Gogh Amsterdam
Vincent Van Gogh. Autoportrait au chapeau noir. 1887. Musée Van Gogh Amsterdam
Johannes Vermeer. Le verre de vin. 1659-1661. Gemäldegalerie Berlin
Vincent Van Gogh. Autoportrait. 1887. Musée Van Gogh Amsterdam

It is perhaps in these two self-portraits dated 1887 that we must look for the true evolution of the artist's style. The self-portrait with a hat presents broad strokes, a contrasting figure with marked shadows on a lighter background with dominant ocher. We easily find the touch of the outstanding designer that was Vincent Van Gogh. When he takes off his hat in the following painting, the chromatic shimmer in the shortening of the brushstrokes foreshadows what will be his mark, if not his obsession, on the last years of his life. The face is barely shaded with soft contrasts, against a deliberately dark background.

Vincent Van Gogh. Autoportrait au chapeau de paille et à la pipe. 1887. Musée Van Gogh Amsterdam
Vincent Van Gogh. Autoportrait au chapeau de paille et à la pipe. 1887. Musée Van Gogh Amsterdam
Vincent Van Gogh. Autoportrait au chapeau de paille. 1887. Musée Van Gogh Amsterdam
Vincent Van Gogh. Autoportrait au chapeau de paille. 1887. Musée Van Gogh Amsterdam

The technique is accentuated on the following self-portraits. Vincent literally touches on the essential. Like Berthe Morisot or Claude Monet, he does not feel obliged to cover the canvas. The perspective, the shapes of the face are rendered by free and powerful strokes that collide in centrifugal or falling sinuosities.

In February 1888, Vincent Van Gogh went to Arles where he stayed until May 1889. He wrote to his brother Theo: "I am beginning to look more and more for a simple technique, which, perhaps, is not impressionist. I would like to paint in such a way that, if need be, everyone who has eyes can see clearly"...


Museumplein 6

1071 DJ Amsterdam


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