Van Gogh painted numerous self-portraits in his short life as a painter.
It is thought that he did not have the money to hire models, or that he was practicing for the portrait commissions he would receive.

In addition, his self-portraits differ greatly in the way they are expressed in different works. We may be able to read what kind of painter Van Gogh was from his expressions. Let's take a look at Van Gogh's life by picking up some of his self-portraits.

1886: First Self-Portrait

It is said that Van Gogh was 28 years old when he decided to become a painter and 33 years old when he started painting self-portraits. The above work is the oldest self-portrait Van Gogh ever produced.

It is the crisp eyes, asexual beard, and angles of the face that are often seen in Van Gogh's self-portraits. This may have been the basis for the self-portraits he painted throughout his life.
Could the portrait below or in the upper right corner be a mistake? Maybe the bottom face is the real Van Gogh and the middle one is an exaggerated portrait.

1886: Works with Dark Expressions

Many people may think of Van Gogh's works expressed through the use of bright colors.

In his early years as a painter, Van Gogh studied the Hague School, a dark technique of expression, and for about half of his life as a painter, many of his works are dark.
The famous work of Van Gogh's Hague School is "The Potato Eaters," shown below. It is a very dark work, and it's hard to believe that Van Gogh painted it.

  • Other Hague School Period Self-Portraits

1887: Became a Leading Impressionist Painter

Van Gogh began painting bright pictures in 1887, influenced by impressionist painters such as Claude Monet and Renoir.
Little by little, the colors are becoming brighter and brighter, typical of Van Gogh.

The following is "Sunflowers" painted during his Impressionist period. It is one of his masterpieces.
It is said that he studied complementary colors while painting Sunflowers and became proficient in the use of blue and yellow, which often appear in his works. For this reason, many of the self-portraits painted during this period are also expressed in blue and yellow.

  • Other Self-Portraits from the Impressionist Period

1889: Living with Gauguin

Around 1888, Van Gogh began living with Paul Gauguin, another Impressionist painter. However, Van Gogh's relationship with Gauguin, who was not good at human relations, soon deteriorated.

One day, the two quarreled, and in a fit of excitement, Van Gogh cut off his own ear. For this reason, a self-portrait of Van Gogh with a bandage on his ear was painted around this time. His face is also gaunt, and it is clear that Van Gogh's mental state began to deteriorate around this time.

The relationship between Van Gogh and Gauguin was cut off after the the incident. However, Gauguin also painted the following portrait of Van Gogh while living together. We can immediately recognize that it is Van Gogh working on "Sunflowers."

1889: Awakened End

After the ear cutting incident, Van Gogh was hospitalized in a mental hospital. In many of his works from that period, swirling expressions like the background of the above work are often seen.

However, it is said that he may have painted this kind of work due to his deteriorating mental condition.

The following "The Starry Night" is also famous for its swirling expression. It is one of his masterpieces and depicts the night sky in a swirling pattern. However, it is said that such a landscape does not actually exist, and that Van Gogh may have painted it in his hallucination.

The Highest Priced Self-Portrait

It is the last self-portrait Van Gogh painted in his life.
It sold for $71.5 million in 1998, making it the third most expensive painting ever sold at the time. It might sold for a high price partly because of its unusual lack of a beard?


How was it? Even focusing only on his self-portrait, we were able to read how Van Gogh led his life as a painter.

Impressionist-Influenced Artworks

The Impressionist influence that Van Gogh brought to the world continues to spread regardless of time and country.

Check out these Impressionist works by Japanese contemporary artists.

Artsy: https://www.artsy.net/viewing-room/kyoto-art-gallery-impressionism/artworks

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