Self Portrait – Bonze with Green Background for Gauguin

Self Portrait – Bonze with Green Background for Gauguin

"The third painting this week is a portrait of myself, almost colourless, in ashy tones against a pale Veronese background. I purposely bought a good enough mirror to work from myself, for want of a model, because if I can manage to paint the coloration of my own head, which is not without presenting some difficulty, I’ll surely be able to paint the heads of the other fellows and women as well." To Theo. Arles, Sunday, 16 September 1888
Details:
Painting Date
16th of September 1888
Detailed Image Links
Description:
The related images are a portrait by Gauguin of Vincent painting sunflowers made around the same time, a pastel of Vincent in profile by Lautrec a year before in Paris, and a photograph of the painting as it hangs in Cambridge, Mass. today.  Vincent liked this image of himself as a buddhist monk or “bonze” against a brilliant flat field of color background of halo’d and wide stroked Veronese green.  It is one of his last self portraits, with only two to follow in the coming months before he heads off to Saint Remy de Provence and a self imposed stay at Saint Paul’s asylum there for a year.
Vincent thought Gauguin’s depiction of him painting sunflowers made him look mad – it was painted after the first month of them getting along fairly well but only a matter of weeks before Vincent has a breakdown and cuts part of his ear off.  Lautrec’s pastel profile of Vincent hangs in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and captures the familiar forward tilt of intensity and passion of the artist he knew well from the atelier Cormon and the night cafes of Montmartre.

“I have a portrait of myself, all ash-coloured. The ashy colour that comes from mixing Veronese with orange lead, on a pale background of uniform Veronese, with a red-brown garment. But exaggerating my personality also, I looked more for the character of a bonze, a simple worshipper of the eternal Buddha. It cost me a good deal of trouble, but I’ll have to do it all over again if I want to express the thing. I’ll have to cure myself even further of the conventional numbness of our so-called civilized state, in order to have a better model for a better painting.”

To Paul Gauguin. Arles, Wednesday, 3 October 1888

“The third painting this week is a portrait of myself, almost colourless, in ashy tones against a pale Veronese background.  I purposely bought a good enough mirror to work from myself, for want of a model, because if I can manage to paint the coloration of my own head, which is not without presenting some difficulty, I’ll surely be able to paint the heads of the other fellows and women as well.”

To Theo. Arles, Sunday, 16 September 1888

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 62 x 52 cm – Size 12 Figure
Arles: September 16, 1888
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, North America
F: 476, JH: 1581

Where Vincent Was:
Arles

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