In the 19th century, the portrait as an artistic genre became increasingly popular. The interest in the person behind the artwork, and in the artist as an inspired genius continues to grow today. Self-portraits, portraits of artists by each other and studio portraits were popular at the time, and were frequently produced. Painters created self-portraits to practice, to experiment, or to set out their identity. They also make portraits of one another, often as a token of friendship. Artists' portraits afforded an excellent opportunity for painters to shape their public profile, allowing them to highlight their ideas on art and their lifestyle.
The online exhibition can be viewed through a special app provided by the museum.
"In the Picture," explores the choices made by the artist, revealing that a portrait often says more than you may initially think. Is the portrait aiming for a good resemblance, for an expression of the inner self, or to create a particular image? A link is also made with the present day. Lisa Smit, Associate Curator at the Van Gogh Museum, "Self-representation and image creation is of all time. What do we show? And what do we hide? The exhibition reveals that these questions were also relevant in the 19th century."
This is the first time that the Van Gogh Museum is devoting an exhibition to the genre of the artist's portrait. The reason for doing so now is the loan from The Courtauld Gallery in London of Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889). This iconic painting of Vincent van Gogh, pictured with his head bandaged, shows an artist both vulnerable and strong; he was distressed, but continued painting. The work provides insight into the identity, image, self-contemplation, and suffering of the artist. These themes also play a central role in the rest of the exhibition, which shows an extensive selection of artists' portraits from the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century.
The exhibition features a total of 77 works, including 53 loans from countries such as France, the United States, England, and Sweden. In addition to Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) from London, another significant self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh is also on display: a loan from the National Museum in Oslo. The authenticity of this work was doubted for many years. However, detailed research recently conducted into the work concluded that the portrait is indeed painted by Van Gogh, in 1889, in the days following a psychosis.
Alongside paintings by Vincent van Gogh, the exhibition also features work by artists including Edvard Munch, Gustave Courbet, John Singer Sargent, and Francis Bacon. There are portraits by no less than 13 female artists, including major names such as Berthe Morisot, Charley Toorop, and Thérèse Schwartze. In the Picture: Artists' Portraits on Paper will run concurrently with the exhibition in the museum's Print Cabinet: a presentation of prints and drawings from the Van Gogh Museum collection, complemented by several loans.
KU's Spencer Museum Loans Painting for In the Picture
The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas has loaned Der Blutende (Bleeding Man) by Max Oppenheimer to the Van Gogh Museum for inclusion in the exhibit, In the Picture. Earlier this spring Spencer staff member Celka Straughn (pictured here) accompanied the painting on its journey overseas. (Image: Spencer Museum of Art)
People throughout the world recognize Vincent Van Gogh, the man with the red beard and intense expression, even though only a single portrait photograph of Van Gogh survives. Our image of Vincent is, therefore, primarily shaped by his self-portraits. "In the Picture" highlights the significant influence of Van Gogh's self-portraits on the generations that followed him. Countless visual artists have been inspired by Van Gogh, acknowledging his impact with their own versions of the self-portraits. This is exemplified by the two paintings by Francis Bacon in the exhibition, in which he alludes to Van Gogh's image as a constantly searching and suffering artist. Work by Emo Verkerk, Julian Schnabel, and Guillaume Bruère is also on display.
"In the Picture" also addresses the many films made about Van Gogh's life, including Lust for Life (1956) and At Eternity's Gate (2018). The appearance of the actors in such films devoted to Van Gogh is often based directly on his self-portraits.
A particular word of thanks should go to the various supporters of this exhibition. The museum owes a particular debt of gratitude to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the BankGiro Loterij, Van Lanschot, ASML, and the Bernhard Cultuurfonds for their generous support.
(Source: Press Release, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Image: Vincent Van Gogh, 'Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear,' 1889. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.)