Vincent van Gogh - Self-portrait 1887

Self-portrait 1887
Oil on cardboard 42.0 x 33.7 cm. Paris: Spring, 1887
Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago

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From the Art Institute of Chicago :
Vincent van Gogh painted his first known self-portrait in 1886, following the model of the 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt. But by the time he made this work, a year later, he had clearly shifted his allegiance from the Old Masters to the Parisian avant-garde. Under the influence of Neo-Impressionist color theory, he based this painting on the contrast of complementary colors. The overall blue-green tone of the background serves as a foil to the orange-red of the artist's hair and beard. While the intensity of the colors is enhanced by the brushwork, the painting's energy and turbulence hint at the inner life of the artist.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Friday, 7 or Saturday, 8 September 1883.
My dear Theo,
I’ve got so far with packing &c. that I’ll leave as soon as I have the travel money. It’s best in the circumstances that I set to work straightaway. For during the removals &c. one can’t do anything good in the way of work, and I shan’t get back into my stride until I’m somewhere in the country. So I hope to be able to get away if you send something towards the 10th, if I can’t go straight through I’ll stay in a village close by for a day or two if need be.
I hope things will turn out as you think possible, indeed as I do too, more or less, that it will make the woman change direction for the better. Yet I fear that won’t happen and she’ll go down the old road.
If I judge by my intimate knowledge of her, she’s too weak in spirit and willpower in particular to continue on a proper course.
When I talked about it during your visit I was determined to decide, but in my view there were two roads, and the decision as to how depended more on her than on me. If she had definitely wanted to carry on with me, so that it was something more than words and a turning away from those faults that had made the situation impossible, I believe that it would have been a better lot for her than that awaiting her now, however difficult and poor things might have been for us. But I saw in her something like a sphinx that cannot say either yes or no. And if you were to ask me if I knew what she’s going to do, all I know is this, ‘certainly not as straight as she could have done’.
In recent days I again saw clearly how looking at the advertisements was done merely for the sake of appearances, and that they’re probably waiting for my departure before embarking on something they don’t discuss with me.
All the more reason for me to leave immediately, for otherwise they’d resort to delaying things deliberately. And the mother again has a hand in this.
This plan, which is again a twisting of what they began a few days ago, will almost certainly lead to nothing but wretchedness.
But I would have to be mad to help when they’re not being open with me, wouldn’t I? So I intend simply to leave and to let fourteen days or so go by. Then I’ll write to them and see how things are.

I’m also beginning to think that I must leave in order to make them be serious. But such a test is dangerous, for even in a short time they can spoil a great deal.
Why, why is the woman so unwise? She’s what Musset has called ‘A child of the age’ through and through — and I sometimes think of the ruin of Musset himself when I consider her future.
There was something elevated in Musset; well, in her there’s also a je ne sais quoi, although she’s certainly not an artist. If only she were, a little. She has her children, and there’ll be something solid in her if they become her idée fixe even more than they are now, but that too isn’t what it should be, even though her mother love, although imperfect, is still the best thing in her character, in my view.
It’s a difficult thing for me that I assume that, once I am gone, she’ll regret a few things and want to be better and will need me. I’m ready to help in that case, but I’ll get into her head what you told me about the woman you met, you found me when I had sunk very low, I must climb up again. Instead of I must climb up again, she will say the abyss draws me.
I once heard that there was a relationship between Musset and George Sand. George was composed, positive, highly industrious. Musset was nonchalant, indifferent, and even neglected his work.
Things came to a head and a separation between these two characters. Later a desperate attempt by Musset and remorse, but not before he had sunk still deeper into the mire, and in the meantime George Sand had got her affairs in order and was completely absorbed in a new work, and said ‘it’s too late, it’s impossible now’.
But these are so much questions of inner conflict, and hearts shrink more in pain because of them than appears.
Theo, when I leave I shan’t leave feeling easy about her — on the contrary, uneasy — because I fear so much that she won’t wake up until it’s too late, not have a keen desire for something simpler and purer until the moment for attaining it has passed.
When I see that sphinx-like quality in her, I recognize it of old both in her and in others, and it’s a very bad sign. Then staring melancholically into the abyss is fatal too, and the way to make that go away is hard work. And now — Theo — she’s again too passively resigned to things — well, melancholy, if it can be overcome, must be overcome by toil, and whoever doesn’t feel that is lost for ever and will go straight to the dogs. I’ve told her this, even got a little of it into her at times.
You see, she’s on the edge, isn’t she?
It shan’t be my hand that pushes her in, but nor can I stand beside her forever, holding her back. A person must have enough common sense to cooperate when he is warned and helped. I know, there are cases where the melancholic appears to be unwilling, but later quietly does what he must and recovers. If she’s like that, then that’s fine and she’ll be all right.
The melancholic is helped by nothing more — in the period of recovery — than by a friend. That’s a great deal then, even if the friend is poor. Well, she’ll continue to find that in me — even if now it’s true that she has been and is at times extremely nasty — of course nonetheless.
She’ll need a support, and I’ll still be that support even though I am gone, provided I see a little energy and good will. The people who tried to turn her away from me (in her family) did something that would be as bad as murdering her and her children if it weren’t that they did it in their obduracy and stupidity. For without that she’d be much further along.
Do your best towards the tenth to send me enough for me to be able to leave if need be, because this would be wise.
All the same, don’t put yourself in difficulties for I’ll act according to the circumstances and write to you straightaway to say what I’ve done.
If it’s too little for Drenthe I’ll go to Loosduinen for a day or so and wait there. I’ve found splendid things in Loosduinen, old farmhouses, and the effects in the evening are superb there. In that case I would probably send my things ahead or put them in storage.
But it’s also just the moment at which I can conveniently end the tenancy, and when your letter comes I’ll leave here.
That will be a sign for the woman that she must persevere. I’ll place more advertisements, but these last two days it was idling about again, and I fear they’ve changed the plan fundamentally.
Adieu, Theo, I wish things were already sorted out, for days like these are difficult and little good to anyone. I wish you well and good fortune, believe me
Ever yours,

I hope you haven’t fallen ill, I also had diarrhoea a while ago but it stopped. Eggs may be the best thing for strengthening the stomach, at least if weakness is the cause.