For an artist so prolific, from whom over 850 paintings and 1,200 drawings have survived, it’s stunning to realize that Vincent van Gogh’s active career spanned only a single decade, from his decision to pursue art at age 27 in 1880, to his untimely death in 1890.
During that time he produced over 30 self portraits. While not as extensive as Rembrandt’s production of almost 90 self portraits over his much longer career, Van Gogh’s self portraits form a similar kind of autobiography, showing the artist over time in different conditions and states of mind, as well as at different stages of his artistic development.
Van Gogh’s self portraits show his relentless pursuit of his art — practicing, working, striving to improve. It has been suggested that self portraiture is somehow more egotistical than other kinds of painting, but I think for many artists, and Van Gogh in particular, self portraiture was a practical measure, the mirror providing a readily available model when paying a model wasn’t an option.
I’ve tried to find several sources for his self portraits, and list them below. The listing on vggallery.com is reasobnably complete and is in chronological order, but you will find better reproductions among the other sources. Van Gogh Gallery also has a fairly complete listing, with larger images, though without a thumbnail gallery for selecting.
In the course of his paintings from the mirror, Van Gogh has created some of his most striking and memorable works. A number of his portraits are less familiar, and infrequently reproduced, but equally revealing and fascinating.