Portraits of Vincent van Gogh

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Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait without beard, end September 1889, (F 525), oil on canvas, 40 × 31 cm., private collection. This may have been Van Gogh's last self-portrait. Given as a birthday gift to his mother.[1]

The portraits of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) include self-portraits, portraits of him by other artists, and photographs—one of which is dubious—of the Dutch artist. Van Gogh's dozens of self-portraits were an important part of his œuvre as a painter. Most probably, van Gogh's self-portraits are depicting the face as it appeared in the mirror he used to reproduce his face, i.e. his right side in the image is in reality the left side of his face.



On July 14, 2022, an almost certainly authentic self-portrait of van Gogh was uncovered under his 1885 painting "Head of a peasant woman".[2] Lesley Stevenson, a conservator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, discovered it during an X-ray examination of their existing pieces. It shows a bearded van Gogh in a brimmed hat and a neckerchief around his throat. His left ear was clearly visible.[3] The portrait is covered under layers of cardboard and glue, which experts are searching for ways to remove in order to confirm its authenticity.[4] They believe it was painted when van Gogh moved to France and learnt about the work of the impressionists there, an experience that influenced his more colourful and expressive style that is much admired today.[3] Van Gogh was known to often reuse his canvases or work on their reverse in order to save money. The X-ray image will be featured at a Royal Scottish Academy exhibit in Edinburgh and displayed using a specially made lightbox.[2][5]

Paris 1886[edit]

The first self-portrait by van Gogh that survived is dated 1886.

Paris 1887[edit]



All the self-portraits executed in Saint-Rémy show the artist's head from the left, i.e. the side with non-mutilated ear.


No self-portraits were executed by van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, during the final weeks of his life.


  • F208a: Self-Portrait with Dark Felt Hat is amongst the earliest of van Gogh's self-portraits. It was discovered late in the family collection and was not exhibited before 1945. Opinions differ about the date and place of its execution. De la Faille thought it painted in Antwerp before 1886, while Hulsker thought it painted in Paris in spring 1886. Hendriks and Tilborgh opt for autumn 1886, based on its resemblance to van Gogh's work that winter when he began to embrace Neo-impressionism. X-ray analysis reveals a nude figure study below. Since students did not work from nude models at Antwerp, this places the painting as executed in Paris where van Gogh had enrolled in Fernand Cormon's atelier. There is no other work in van Gogh's oeuvre which complements this portrait, which has led to some authors such as Dorn questioning its authenticity.[11] However Hendriks and Tilborgh are satisfied that the painting is consistent with others executed at the beginning and end of van Gogh's first year in Paris.[12] Marc Edo Tralbaut, van Gogh's principal biographer, especially valorised the portrait, selecting it for the dust-jacket of his biography and stating that van Gogh had "laid himself bare" for the portrait.[13] Tralbaut notes that van Gogh painted a number of self-portraits at this time, possibly because of his difficulty in getting models to sit for him. He was in poor health and his teeth were falling out, prompting him to grow a moustache to conceal them. At this time he was wearing city-clothes in an effort to stress his middle-class background as he strove to establish a conventional career for himself as an artist.
  • F627: This painting may have been van Gogh's last self-portrait, which he gave to his brother.[10]
  • F525: This painting may have been van Gogh's last self-portrait, which he gave to his mother as a birthday gift.[1][14] Van Gogh painted Self-Portrait without beard just after he had shaved himself (Hulsker thought it painted in Arles following his admission to hospital after mutilating his ear when he was also shaved, as can be seen in the "bandaged ear" portraits F527 and F529). The painting can be seen in the third (smaller) version of Bedroom in Arles at the Musée d'Orsay. The self-portrait is one of the most expensive paintings of all time, selling for $71.5 million in 1998 in New York. At the time, it was the third (or an inflation-adjusted fourth) most expensive painting ever sold.


  • F476: Vincent van Gogh, Arles, (1888) gift; to Paul Gauguin, (1888–1897) sold. [Ambroise Vollard, Paris.] [Paul Cassirer Gallery, Berlin.] Hugo von Tschudi, Berlin, (1906–1911), by descent; to his widow, Angela von Tschudi, Munich (1911–1919), to Neue Staatsgalerie, Munich, (1919–1939); removed from the collection by the National Socialist (Nazi) authorities in 1938, (EK16554) consigned; to [Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, Switzerland, sale: Gemälde und Plastiken Moderner Meister aus Deutschen Museen, 30 June 1939, no. 45]; to Maurice Wertheim (1939–1951) bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1951. Notes: Gauguin sold the painting for Fr 300, Hugo von Tschudi bought the painting for the Nationalgalerie, Berlin, with funds from sponsors, but did not submit it to the Kaiser for pre-approval. He took the painting to Munich when he assumed post there.[15]


In Nazi Germany, Vincent van Gogh's works were among those labelled generally "degenerate art". Several works were seized and sold/or destroyed by NS authorities including the self-portrait dedicated to Paul Gauguin, September 1888, which was seized from the Moderne Staatsgalerie in Munich to be sold at auction in 1939 in Lucerne, Switzerland, while other works by van Gogh could remain in this collection, but were kept under lock and key.


Self-Portrait, à l'oreille mutilée, 1889? (F528)
Oil on canvas, 40 × 31 cm
National Gallery, Oslo

Almost at the same time as when his Catalogue raisonné was published, Jacob Baart de la Faille had to admit that he had included paintings emerging from dubious sources, and of dubious quality. Shortly after, in 1930, De la Faille rejected some thirty odd paintings, which he had originally included in his catalogue – together with a hundred of others he had already excluded: Self-portraits – and Sunflowers – held a prominent place in the set he now rejected. In 1970, the editors of De la Faille's posthumous manuscript brand marked most of these dubious Self-portraits as forgeries,[16] but could not settle all disputes, at least on one:

  • The Selfportrait 'a l'éstampe japonais', then in the collection of William Goetz, Los Angeles, was included, though all editors refused its authenticity.[17]

Meanwhile, the authenticity of a second "self-portrait" has been challenged:

  • The Selfportrait, 'à l'oreille mutilée', acquired in 1910 for the Nasjonalgalleriet, Oslo, had been unanimously rejected by scholars and technical researchers for decades, until provenance research by staff members reported pro domo the contrary.[18] On January 20, 2020 the results of research into this painting were published, and the conclusion was that this is a real Van Gogh painting, painted in the time that he was in a mental institution.[19]

Note the painter shows his right ear, if painted via a mirror, while Van Gogh cut his left ear.

Portraits of Vincent van Gogh by other artists[edit]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Pickvance (1986), 131
  2. ^ a b "Vincent Van Gogh: Self-portrait discovered in Scotland – CBBC Newsround". Retrieved 2022-07-15.
  3. ^ a b Ogg, Jordan (2022-07-14). "Hidden Van Gogh self-portrait discovered". National Galleries of Scotland. Archived from the original on 2022-07-14.
  4. ^ Timsit, Annabelle (2022-07-14). "Secret Van Gogh self-portrait discovered by X-ray of another painting". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  5. ^ "Hidden Van Gogh self-portrait found behind painting in Scotland". Reuters. 2022-07-14. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  6. ^ "Vincent Van Gogh – Self-portrait". Online catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
  7. ^ "To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Thursday, 5 and Friday, 6 September 1889". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. Note 4. Retrieved 26 February 2012. People say – and I'm quite willing to believe it – that it's difficult to know oneself ...
  8. ^ "To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Friday, 20 September 1889". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. Note 14. Retrieved 26 February 2012. I have another one which is an attempt from when I was ill.
  9. ^ "To Willemien van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Thursday, 19 September 1889". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. Note 16. Retrieved 26 February 2012. Lately I've done two portraits of myself, one of which is quite in character, I think, ...
  10. ^ a b Walther 2000, p. 74.
  11. ^ Dorn 2005 pp. 19, 21
  12. ^ Hendriks, Tilborgh 2011 pp. 271–273
  13. ^ Tralbaut 1961. pp. 188–189
  14. ^ "To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Saturday, 28 September 1889". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. 1r:1. ... a little portrait of me.
  15. ^ "From the Harvard Art Museums' collections Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin".
  16. ^ De la Faille 1970, nos. CHK
  17. ^ De la Faille 1970, no. 476a: inscribed étude à la bougie
  18. ^ Marit Ingeborg Lange: The provenance of Vincent van Gogh's 'Self-portrait' in Oslo, Burlington Magazine CXLVIII/1235, February 2006, pp. 113–116
  19. ^ "Onderzoekers concluderen over betwijfeld schilderij: Dit is toch echt een van Gogh".
  20. ^ "A portrait of the artist as a middle-aged man?". TheGuardian.com. 24 February 2004.


  • Dorn, Roland: Vincent, portraitiste: Bemerkungen zu ein paar heissen Eisen, in: Lukas Gloor, ed.: Van Gogh echt falsch: Zwei Selbstbildnisse der Sammlung Emil Bührle, Zürich 2005, pp. 7 – 21
  • Hammacher, A. M.: Van Gogh: Selbstbildnisse, Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1960; 2nd edition 1970
  • Hendriks, Ella; van Tilborgh, Louis. Vincent Van Gogh Paintings: 2, Lund Humphries 2011, ISBN 978-1848220836
  • Van Lindert, Juleke, & Van Uitert, Evert: Een eigentijdse expressie: Vincent van Gogh en zijn portretten, Meulenhoff/Landshoff, Amsterdam 1990 ISBN 90-290-8350-6
  • Pickvance, Ronald. Van Gogh In Saint-Rémy and Auvers (exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Abrams, 1986. ISBN 0-87099-477-8
  • Tralbaut, Marc Edo. Vincent van Gogh, London 1961, Macmillan, ISBN 033-3109104
  • Walther, Ingo (2000). Van Gogh. Cologne: Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-6322-0.

External links[edit]