How would you paint yourself? A self-portrait is a way of visually expressing both what you look like and who you are. How would you accomplish this? The subject and creator of this portrait, Vincent van Gogh, used passionate brushstrokes and emotional color to illustrate his feelings and character. Van Gogh was a troubled man who struggled with depression and psychological unrest. His anxiety and fervor are expressed through his use of large, bold brushstrokes. The dark shadows beneath the artist’s eyes are composed of only three solid lines. One can imagine Van Gogh feverishly striking a canvas with his paintbrush. The many thick lines that compose this painting create a likeness of the artist as well as a sense of chaos and unrest.
Van Gogh is famous for his use of brilliant, passionate color. The warm, fiery tones of Van Gogh’s skin contrast harshly with the dark color of his piercing eyes and the ominous background. The color contrast between the artist’s face and his surroundings gives the illusion of collapsed space. In this painting, it appears that the subject may soon be engulfed by the ever-advancing darkness behind him. There is no doubt that the tension, chaos, and sorrow that this painting expresses reflect the emotions of the painter.
Though greatly troubled, Van Gogh found solace in art. Van Gogh dreamed of establishing a commune where artists could gather to paint and reflect. Gauguin was the only artist who came to live and paint with Van Gogh. Though the two artists were eager to learn from one another, Gauguin’s visit was short lived. The eccentric painters quarreled endlessly. Though not recognized during his lifetime, Van Gogh, with his expressive use of color, ultimately shaped the next generation of artists.