2/1/13: Understanding in other Cultures
Self Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gougain, Vincent Van Gogh
This piece represents both history, Impressionism, and a mixing of both the East and the West in one work. Van Gogh painted this work as an invitation for fellow artist Paul Gougain to join his artists’ commune called The Yellow House. Fascinated by Japanese culture, Van Gogh had designed this commune to be modeled after those of Buddhist monks, and painted himself in such a fashion. His eyes are slanted in this self portrait and his head almost shaved in imitation of the monks of the orient. The quick brush strokes and use of light mark this as an impressionist work, and combined with the previous characteristics showcase influences of both western and eastern culture. This painting represents history as it deals with the reason that Van Gogh cut off his ear and sent it to a prostitute, one of the most famous events that made its way into popular art culture. It gives insight as to why Gougain left the commune, prompting Van Gogh to such action, as Van Gogh seemed to be interested in an elevated state of art from a refined and exclusive standpoint, while Gougain was more interested in Primitivism, or art being more pure in base instinct and “lesser developed” cultures.