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Vincent Van Gogh | Self-portraits




Vincent 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.
He painted over 30 self-portraits between the years 1886-1889. 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.
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.
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".
In addition to Gauguin, Van Gogh also exchanged self-portraits with artist Émile Bernard.
After receiving a letter from Bernard and Gauguin with their self-portraits enclosed, Van Gogh responded to Bernard encouraging portrait painting believing that portraits would always be in demand writing the following to Bernard:
"I strongly urge you to study portrait painting, do as many portraits as you can and don't flag. We must win the public over later on by means of the portrait; in my opinion it is the thing of the future".