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Artwork Review: Self-Portrait by Van Gogh
Posted by Kenny on 1/5/2009 4:14:02 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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Van Gogh’s self-portraits have a double function. He recorded in them his emotional arid physical states; he also used them to try out new techniques. In this work the artist is experimenting with Divisionism (or Pointillism), a style favored by some of his contemporaries, which employed small, straight brush strokes, very close together or overlapping.

Van Gogh - Self Portrait

Oil on Canvas

As in all his portraiture, the image is unsparingly candid and the colors suggest mood and character. Here is the city dweller in his debonair hat, the jaunty tilt of its brim contrasting with his worn expression. The picture was done perhaps six months before Van Gogh escaped to Provence from the hectic art life of Paris. His eyes stare warily, reflecting the ruddiness of hair and complexion, a ruddiness that is far from the glow of health. His whole presence bristles, intense and aggressive, unhappy. The strongly stroked jacket lapels are like blue-violet zigzags of lightning.

Van Gogh once said he wanted to paint people "with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize". Indeed, in this portrait the red and orange brush strokes are like sparks struck from the artist's face, radiating out to form halo-like rings of light pulsating about his head.

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