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Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Vincent van Gogh, 1887

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Dawn Deming

on 13 November 2012

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Transcript of Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Vincent van Gogh, 1887

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Vincent van Gogh, 1887 “The question is only whether one starts from the soul or from the clothes.”
– Van Gogh Self as Subject Desiring to painting figures but without the money to hire models, Van Gogh painted self-portraits. “I deliberately brought a good mirror,” he once remarked, “so if I lacked a model I could work from my own likeness.” Still, although working from a mirror, Van Gogh’s goal was not to produce a naturalistic portrait. As he said, “painted portraits have a life of their own that comes from deep within the soul of the painter and where the [camera] can’t go.” Facial Expression Van Gogh’s expression is open to interpretation. What mood do you think he is in and why? Expressive Brushstrokes Complimentary Colors Throughout his career, Van Gogh immersed himself in the study of color theory. Complimentary colors lie across from each other on the color wheel. The orange and yellow hues of Van Gogh’s beard and hat are complimentary to the blueish colors seen throughout the painting. The reddish tones compliment the touch of green in his left eye. Van Gogh used complimentary colors to make his art “vibrate.” As he said, “A good understanding of [colors] is worth more than 70 different shades of paint.” Van Gogh used roughly parallel brushstrokes to model his facial features. These brushstrokes are rendered in a manner similar to the pointillist technique so that each individual mark is visible. Yet Van Gogh moved beyond mere imitation here. His marks are somewhere in between precise dots and the expressively rendered brushstrokes the he uses in later paintings, like The Starry Night. “When one…orders one’s brushstrokes in the direction of the objects—certainly it’s more harmonious and agreeable to see,” Van Gogh wrote. Bold Outlines
In addition to the work of Neo-Impressionists, Van Gogh was influenced by Japanese prints, which he continued to collect while in Paris. Here, that influence is visible in the way Van Gogh outlined the lapel of his jacket, the brim of his hat, and his right cheek. Faded Background
Recent research has revealed that Self-Portrait with Straw Hat is not an unfinished sketch, as once thought, but has been subject to fading and discoloration over time. Scholars have determined that Van Gogh painted both the background and the jacket a pinkish-purplish color that would have complimented his yellow hat, making it even more vibrant. Only hints of the underlying blue remain in both areas.
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