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Exhibition dedicated to artist portraits and self-portraits opens at the Van Gogh Museum
Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

AMSTERDAM.- In the Picture: Portraying the Artist (21 February - 24 May 2020) is the first exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum to focus on the genre of artist portraits and self-portraits. With more than 60 portraits from the period 1850 to 1920, the exhibition presents a multifaceted exploration of the role and significance of the artist’s portrait.

The exhibition unites a wide selection of major names and new faces. In addition to numerous self-portraits by Vincent van Gogh, including the renowned Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) from The Courtauld Gallery in London and Self-Portrait (1889) from the National Museum in Oslo, the exhibition also features portraits by artists including Edvard Munch, Thérèse Schwartze, Gustave Courbet, Berthe Morisot and Helene Schjerfbeck.

In the Picture also presents work by modern and contemporary artists who have been inspired by Van Gogh’s self-portraits, and the many films devoted to the artist. The exhibition opened today and will be on display until 24 May 2020.

The person behind the art
Throughout the 19th century the portrait became an increasingly popular artistic genre. Along with growing interest in the person behind the artwork, and in the artist as an inspired genius. Self-portraits, portraits of artists and studio portraits are frequently produced. Painters create self-portraits to practice, experiment or to set out their identity, they also made portraits of one another as a token of friendship.

Self-portraits provided an opportunity for artists to shape their public profile, allowing them to highlight their ideas on art and lifestyle. The exhibition explores the choices made by the artists, revealing that a portrait often says more than you may initially think. A link is also made with the present day selfie culture and prominence of our own self image. Lisa Smit, Associate Curator at the Van Gogh Museum says ‘self-representation and image creation is as prevalent now as it was then. What do we show? And what do we hide? The exhibition asks these questions of some of the world’s most renowned artists including Vincent van Gogh’.

Van Gogh and the artist’s portrait
This is the first exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum devoted to the genre of the artist’s portrait and is timed to coincide with a specialloan from The Courtauld Gallery in London of 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 still continued painting. The work provides insight into his identity, image, self-contemplation and suffering: themes that play a central role in the rest of works on display in the exhibition.

Major names and new faces
The exhibition features a total of 77 works, including 53 loans from countries such as France, the United States, the UK and Sweden. Other significant loans include a self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh from the National Museum in Oslo, the authenticity of which was doubted for many years. Last month, Van Gogh Museum researchers concluded that the portrait is indeed a Van Gogh from 1889, painted in the days following a psychosis.

Alongside paintings by Vincent van Gogh, the exhibition features work by artists including Edvard Munch, Gustave Courbet, John Singer Sargent and Francis Bacon. There are portraits by 13 female artists, such as Berthe Morisot, Charley Toorop and Thérèse Schwartze. In the Picture: Artists’ Portraits on Paper runs 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.

Starring Vincent
The exhibition 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 self-portraits. This is exemplified by the two paintings by Francis Bacon which allude to Van Gogh’s image as a constantly searching and suffering artist. Works 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), in which the appearance of the actors is based directly on Van Gogh’s own self-portraits.

Lastly, 66 photographic portraits of pupils at Amsterdam schools are being exhibited in the Exhibition Wing stairwell. Made in collaboration with artist Maarten Bel, these portraits of pupils use everyday objects and materials in extraordinary ways, and were taken in the style of Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889).

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