Analysis: Vincent Van Gogh's portrait of the artist

Gilles Farina
Publié le 12 May 2023
Analysis: Vincent Van Gogh's portrait of the artist

The self-portrait is a special genre in painting. A genre in which Vincent Van Gogh excelled. Even before the selfie craze, Vincent Van Gogh portrayed himself a lot, and it was even his favourite theme. Museum TV takes a look at The Portrait of the Artist, one of his most intense masterpieces.

An obsession

The self-portrait is a real artistic genre used by great masters of painting such as Rembrandt or Goya.

For Van Gogh, this is an obsession: he made 43 self-portraits of himself.

Portrait of the Artist is framed in bust form, all attention is focused on the face. His features are hard and emaciated, his green-rimmed eyes appear uncompromising and anxious. The dominant colour, between green and turquoise, finds its counterpoint in the complementary colour, the fire-orange, of the beard and hair.

Moreover, the immobility of the model is contrasted with the undulating curves of his hair and beard, which are amplified in the hallucinatory arabesques of the background. Like a revelation of her torments. Indeed, like the great painters who preceded him, he observes himself in the mirror without any complacency. Painting himself is far from trivial: it is a question of questioning his own identity. In other words, a dizzying exercise!

Vincent wrote to his brother: "It is said that it is difficult to know oneself. But it is not easy to paint oneself either. The portraits painted by Rembrandt are more than nature, they are a revelation." You will have understood: to paint a self-portrait, unlike a selfie, is to seek truth and sincerity!

Today, this painting is exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and is part of the permanent collection. So if you are visiting the City of Light, don't hesitate to visit it.

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