Van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait, on loan from the Van Gogh Museum to the Dulwich Picture Gallery as its Masterpiece of the Month for August – and celebrating the gallery’s 200th anniversary – was painted when Seurat’s influence was at its height. In it Van Gogh borrows from the pointillist method of using dots of colour to create the effect of shimmering light. But instead of dots he uses straight brushstrokes, and instead of pure colour he lays one on top of another. The radiating circle of dark blue, grey and brown strokes frames Vincent’s head, pushing it closer to the picture plane and rendering his orange -red beard all the more vivid.It used to be said that the vibrating colour in pictures like this were indications of Van Gogh’s approaching madness. Yet a less mad picture would be hard to find. He is neatly dressed in a cravat, coat and felt hat and looks out at us with an intense, intelligent, piercing gaze.
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