Self-Portrait with Pipe
Self-Portrait with Pipe
"...there can’t be a single objection to finding a temporary garret in Paris right away, on the very first day I arrive — and then I can go to the Louvre or L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts for that drawing, and that way it’ll be all the more successful at Cormon’s" Vincent from Antwerp to Theo in Paris two weeks before Vincent's arrival in February, 1886.
Painting Date15th of April 1886
Vincent is newly returned to Paris when he paints this self portrait in Spring of 1886. His northern palette of harmonic browns is lightened with reflections on his vest of a prussian blue and a brilliant orange beard. The background is barely distinguishable from the jacket color with the subject almost melting into it or sprouting out of it there is so little contrast intended. The pipe, wider eyes and furled brow give an impression of a man of success of the day in posture and general appearance as Vincent tries to build upon the skills he has learned as a draftsman in The Hague with the teachings of Fernand Cormon in his popular atelier (school/studio) at 10 rue Constance, near the boulevard de Clichy in Montmartre (shown in the related images without Vincent present). Vincent is attending the Studio in the first few months of living in Paris and as he cannot get live models, he practices his new techniques and brightening color palette on portraits of himself. This painting contains many of the colors of the palette Vincent used in the Netherlands and has a few new ones he has begun to experiment with. The lavenders of his lapel and the orange/red of his side-lit beard are hints of what is to come as the impressionists influence Vincent and he begins to seek new colors and color combinations to express what he sees in his perspective frame. His classmates are Lautrec, Anquetin, Guillamin and Bernard but he is not accepted by the mainly French body of students and is ridiculed for his comparitively weak drawing skills.
He is living with Theo in the cramped 25 Rue Victor Massé (formerly Rue Laval) apartment before they move to the Rue Lepic in Montmartre in June of that year. After his experiences in Holland and not caring for his health or appearance very well, he makes a fresh start in Paris, replacing his many missing teeth with a set of dentures and augmenting his wardrobe beyond a simple smock to include a sharp new suit, cravat and hat. His beard and hair are neatly trimmed and he looks in the mirror at every bit the optimistic and assured young artist ready to improve his skills and forge his path forward in the art center of the world, Paris. His brother now occupies his old position as an art dealer at the prestigious art house Goupil and Valladon, a job Vincent’s temperament would not allow him to succeed at. But he is ready to strike forward again in Paris, this time as an artist and with his brother’s companionship and support, he was confident he would finally succeed.
By viewing the related self portrait done over two years later in comparison, one can see how Vincent’s technique evolves from early Paris works so heavily influenced by mixed primaries and their resulting realistic harmonic browns – to swirled backgrounds of vibrant color and hatched and stippled brush strokes evident in his work from Arles and St. Remy.
“…there can’t be a single objection to finding a temporary garret in Paris right away, on the very first day I arrive — and then I can go to the Louvre or L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts for that drawing, and that way it’ll be all the more successful at Cormon’s”
Vincent from Antwerp to Theo in Paris two weeks before Vincent’s arrival in February, 1886.
Painting, Oil on Canvas
Paris: Spring, 1886
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 208, JH: 1195