“People say – and I’m quite willing to believe it – that it’s difficult to know oneself – but it’s not easy to paint oneself either. Thus I’m working on two portraits of myself at the moment – for want of another model – 1v:2 because it’s more than time that I did a bit of figure work. One I began the first day I got up, I was thin, pale as a devil. It’s dark violet blue and the head whiteish with yellow hair, thus a colour effect. But since then I’ve started another one, three-quarter length on a light background.”“the portrait I did of myself, in which the gaze is vague and veiled” Vincent to Theo, September 9, 1889.
To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Thursday, 5 and Friday, 6 September 1889
“Today I’m sending you my portrait of myself, you must look at it for some time – you’ll see, I hope, that my physiognomy has grown much calmer, although the gaze may be vaguer than before, so it appears to me. I have another one which is an attempt from when I was ill. But I think this one will please you more, and I’ve tried to create something simple, show it to pere Pissarro if you see him.”
Vincent to Theo, September 20, 1889.In a letter to his sister Wil, on September 19, 1889:“Lately I’ve done two portraits of myself, one of which is quite in character, I think, but in Holland they’d probably scoff at the ideas about portraits that are germinating here. Did you see at Theo’s the portrait of the painter Guillaumin and the portrait of a young woman by the same? That really gives an idea of what one is searching for. When Guillaumin exhibited his portrait, public and artists laughed at it a great deal, and yet it’s one of the rare things that would hold up alongside even the old Dutchmen Rembrandt and Hals.”
I myself still find photographs frightful and don’t like to have any, especially not of people whom I know and love. These portraits, first, are faded more quickly than we ourselves, while the painted portrait remains for many generations. Besides, a painted portrait is a thing of feeling made with love or respect for the being represented. What remains to us of the old Dutchmen? The portraits.
Thus in Mauve’s family the children will always continue to see him in the portrait that Mesker did so very well of him.”Vincent to sister Anna, also on September 19, 1889: “As often as I get the opportunity, I work on portraits that I sometimes think myself are more serious and better than the rest of my work. And if it might be that my condition permits me to go back to Paris again, or in the vicinity, that will become the main thing for me.” Vincent in Auvers to Wil, June 5, 1890: “My friend Dr. Gachet is decidedly enthusiastic about this latest portrait of the Arlésienne, one of which I also have myself, and about a portrait of myself, and that gave me pleasure, since he’ll drive me to do figure work and I hope he’ll find me a few interesting models to do.” Painting, Oil on Canvas Saint-Rémy: September, 1889 Musée d’Orsay Paris, France, Europe F: 627, JH: 1772