Van Gogh Self-portraits in Amsterdam

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3 min read

"Face to face with Vincent van Gogh" doesn't sound as interesting as it does in Dutch - "Oog in oog met Vincent van Gogh", which rhymes better. The exhibition at the ground floor of the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam puts you face to face with a large collection of van Gogh's self-portraits, mostly made towards the last years of his life.

Considering the original and at-the-time unorthodox painting style, it was a surprise seeing how many portraits he had made. If I were clueless about his timeline I'd guess they were made over many many years but I'd be wrong.

The man with the straw hat and smoking pipe is such an iconic painting but there are so many editions of it, and some here in Amsterdam. This exhibition doesn't hold all of the paintings but a large amount.
Only 4 of his paintings are kept behind a glass wall. The rest are hung openly against the walls and I could get up close to experience first-hand the strokes that made him so popular.

Although considered a master at painting, he must have been exponentially better at doing self-portraits. However, each of his portraits shown in this exhibition is very different from the next.

Look at the two paintings above. They were made by him in the same year, or at least within the difference of not more than 1 year. However, they are completely different and unique. From the expression, the painting style, to his own attributes.

Most of these images I had to touch up. The lighting within this hall wasn't the best to take good pictures in. It was very dimly lit and felt very intentional. I wonder if it is always like this.

That made it harder to capture this painting you see above. It is one of his smaller self-portraits and dark too. Compared to what you've seen above, here neither himself nor his background is bright. Everything is dark and muddy. It is also not done in his typical style nor does he look his typical self.

Wonder if that had to do anything with his approach to this portrait.

As you can see, the trend sort of follows with similar portraits. Dark and muddy, often paired with him in a jacket or something "clean". Vincent van Gogh popularly admired the simple life of peasants. He did not prefer the opposite.

Is that why he made these self portraits the way he did or am I playing into the "meaning of the blue curtain" syndrome?

That's a rare sight - van Gogh showing almost two ears.

Vincent van Gogh painted roughly 1 self portrait a day by the end of his life. That's why I mentioned if I'd be clueless I'd think they were made over many years. They are versatile in style and attributes. But the uniqueness of each one is what makes them so interesting. Considering he was schizophrenic, I wonder what he was going through while endlessly making beautiful editions of himself. Well, one Google search and curiosity kills the cat, but don't forget to take your tinfoil hat along with. Plenty of theories and all of them interesting.

He really loved developing his style. And mastered it pretty quickly. Vincent van Gogh got inspired and got into learning color theory. Which is when he sigted to painting self portraits in color. Its a massive journey which he completed in a mere few years. I find his color portraits oncredible. I would still consider Monet much better in colors in painting but they are two different artists.

The two above are my absolute favourite picks. Unless I come across something better.

It's the incredible detail that I love. All of portraits look at you and follow you, which is pretty cool. But these two are simply mindblowing to me. It is almost he is toying with the fact that he went from line art to line paint art and does it seamlessly. Almost showing off. To the extent that he painted his strokes in a direction.

Enjoy the details. But they do no justice to the real thing.

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