In 2004 I had the good fortune to spend several hours one day at the incomparable Musée D’Orsay in Paris. For lovers of art who particularly savor Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, it is a paradise. The above 1887 self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh in the D’Orsay’s permanent collection took both my breath and my heart away (click on image for a larger view).
Van Gogh was 34 years old when he painted this self-portrait. He had discovered the French Impressionists when he moved to Paris about a year-and-a-half earlier, and it was while there that he painted this impressionistic portrait. In 1888, during the period he spent in Arles in the South of France, Van Gogh’s unique and unmistakable style fully emerged.
It was after Van Gogh’s first exhibitions in the late 1880’s that his work began to attract the interest of the art world – peers, dealers, collectors. However, he sold only one painting during his lifetime, Red Vineyard at Arles. Van Gogh lived in poverty much of his artistic life, at times spending what money he had on painting supplies instead of food.
Vincent Van Gogh took his own life in the summer of 1890 at age 37. Memorial exhibitions of his work were mounted in various European cities after his death, and important retrospectives were staged in major cities worldwide during the early part of the 20th century. By mid-century Van Gogh was considered one of the greatest and most recognized artists in history. Today his works are among the most highly valued in the world, with some of his paintings worth more than $100 million each. Ah, irony…