GOGH, Vincent van
(b. 1853, Groot Zundert, d. 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)

Self-Portrait in front of the Easel

January 1888, Paris
Oil on canvas, 65 x 51 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Catalogue numbers: F 522, JH 1356.

Shortly before he left Paris and moved to Provence in late February 1888, van Gogh painted this final self-portrait. He is no longer dressed as the urban dandy, but in the blue blouson of the Parisian working class. He stands before his easel, holding his palette in a pose intentionally reminiscent of a self-portrait by Rembrandt which was then in the Louvre and well known to van Gogh. Perhaps the painting should be read as a kind of manifesto of the new orientation in his conception of himself as an artist and of his work - the intention to remove himself from the city and its bourgeois lifestyle, and the desire to be seen in a Dutch rather than a French tradition. The painting also betrays a growing confidence in himself as an artist: he appears with the insignia of his profession. Greater assurance is also evident in the handling. The earlier extreme experimentation with pure or broken colour and a textured and structuring brushwork has given way to a more controlled and coherent treatment. In the pose he has used, van Gogh evokes Rembrandt; but the painterly treatment and coloration remind us of another seventeenth-century Dutch artist - Frans Hals. The lessons van Gogh had learnt in Antwerp, explored in greater depth throughout the Paris period, are now successfully integrated into his work to produce a distinctive style.

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