In spring 2020, the Van Gogh Museum presents In the Picture, an exhibition focusing on the role and significance of artist portraits. Some 75 portraits offer a wide-ranging introduction to the wealth of self-portraits and portraits of artists produced in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century.
In the Picture unites major names and new faces. Portraits by Vincent van Gogh will be exhibited alongside works by Edvard Munch, Gustave Courbet, Francis Bacon and Helene Schjerfbeck. In addition, there will be works by modern and contemporary artists who have been inspired by Van Gogh’s self-portraits.
Throughout the 19th century the portrait as an artistic genre became increasingly popular. There was also growing interest in the artist: the creative genius showing something of themselves. As a result, portraits of artists became a highly popular subgenre.
Self-portraits, portraits of artists and studio portraits come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share one key connection: they are representations of artists in which the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred.
Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits and portraits of him by his friends form the heart of the exhibition, with a lead role reserved for Van Gogh’s Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, on special loan from The Courtauld Gallery in London. Themes include image-building, introspection and the myth of the suffering artist.
Lisa Smit, Associate Curator at the Van Gogh Museum: ‘We hope the exhibition will help visitors understand that these artists carefully considered how they presented themselves, and played with these portrayals, just like we all do nowadays on social media. It is a subject that spans time’.
The influence of Van Gogh’s self-portraits on the generations that followed him is also examined in detail. Only a single photograph of Vincent van Gogh has survived so writers, artists and directors have often based their characterisation of Van Gogh solely on his self-portraits, thus further expanding his legend.
In the Picture opens at the Van Gogh Museum on 21 February 2020.