A total of 39 self portraits by Van Gogh have been preserved. He painted the majority of them in Paris, where he practiced with new, lighter colors and other painting techniques. Van Gogh painted himself because it was cheap and a patient model was always available.
Van Gogh painted his self portraits with the help of a mirror. In this way he could try out different poses, colors and styles and endlessly vary the look: man with hat, man with pipe, man with hat and pipe. Striking: there are no self portraits in which Van Gogh smiles. He did not paint his self portraits to practice depicting emotions, but to experiment with colors, techniques and painting styles.
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See van Gogh's self portraits in chronological order at http://www.wga.hu/html_m/g/gogh_van/16/ .
autodidactdutch artistself portraitself taughtoil on canvas