Vincent Van Gogh painted his portrait with a reddish beard, quite often with a yellow straw hat and pipe. Most of his portrait paintings can be found between 1886 ~ 1889, including “Skull with Burning Cigarette”; the skull can be seen as van Gogh’s first self-portrait. Have you ever wonder why van Gogh painted his portrait?
His portrait painting started when he moved on from Antwerp to Paris in February 27, 1886, to live with his brother Theo. It was his desire to seek for an improvement of himself by choosing to live in Paris and forget the everyday feuding of the village. Beside having this choice of living in a populous city, he became more self-conscious about his outer appearance. This could be a reason why he painted himself.
Back then, Van Gogh uses the reflection of his mirror, to reproduce his face. He painted over 40 pieces of his portrait works in his life time, making himself the most intellectually recognized portrait artist of his time. Perhaps another reasons for this obsession, could probably trying to figure out who he was and what is place in the world was.
Despite having many of his painting works, most were not appreciated or being sold. As such, he did not have sufficient finance to support his enthusiasm on improving portrait painting skill. No money to pay the posing model, and not many people commissioning him to do portrait paintings. This was also a reason why he painted himself.
In January 1889, Arles, he painted himself with bandaged ear. It was this few paintings that clearly portrait himself without his beard. Interestingly, he chose to paint than to look at the mirror of how he look like with this bandage. Possibly never believe that mirror image was more true than his hand painted artwork.
Theses days portrait paintings have change drastically, who else will paint himself by using the reflection of mirror? Most will just use their existing photograph to reproduce them self, be it in the medium of pencil, watercolor or oil painting.