Vincent van Gogh


Vincent van Gogh painted over 30 self-portraits between the years 1886 and 1889. His collection of self-portraits places him among the most prolific self-portraitists of all time. Van Gogh used portrait painting as a method of introspection, a method to make money and a method of developing his skills as an artist.

When van Gogh first began painting he used peasants as models. After this stage, he worked more on experimenting with his use of color in painting landscapes and flowers, primarily because he could not afford to pay models. He explains this in a letter to his sister Wilhelmina van Gogh in 1887:

"Of my own work I think that the picture of peasants eating potatoes I did in Nuenen is après tout the best I've done. But since then I've had no chance of getting models, though on the other hand I did have the chance to study the colour question. And if I should find models again for my figures later, then I would hope to be able to show that I am after something other than little green landscapes or flowers."

Van Gogh did not have money to pay models to pose for portraits nor did he have many people commissioning him to do portraits, so van Gogh painted his own portrait. van Gogh did not see portrait painting as merely a means to an end; he also believed that portrait painting would help him develop his skills as an artist. In a letter to his brother Theo dated September 16, 1888, Van Gogh writes about a self-portrait he painted and dedicated to his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin:

"The third picture this week is a portrait of myself, almost colourless, in ashen tones against a background of pale veronese green."
Self-Portraits of Vincent van Gogh
Self-Portrait 1886 Self Portrait
Self-Portrait 1887Self Portrait
Self-Portrait with Straw HatSelf Portrait with Straw Hat
Self-Portrait with Straw Hat 1887Self Portrait with Straw Hat
Self-Portrait in front of EaselSelf Portrait in Front of Easel
Self-Portrait dedicated to GauginSelf Portrait dedicated to Gaugin
Self-Portrait 1889Self Portrait