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Portrait of the Artist's Mother, October 1888

Vincent van Gogh

Dutch, 1853-1890
Oil on canvas
16 x 12-3/4 in. (40.6 x 32.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1968.32.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

By the autumn of 1888, Vincent van Gogh had settled into his Yellow House in Arles, and at the end of October he would welcome Paul Gauguin in what he hoped would become an artist’s collective—a “Studio of the South.” Portraits were on the Dutchman’s mind, as not only had he exchanged self-portraits with Gauguin, Émile Bernard and Charles Laval that same month, but he had also set out to complete a series of family portraits. According to van Gogh’s letters to his brother, Theo, this portrait of their mother was based upon a black-and-white photograph. Of the portrait, the artist wrote, “I am doing a portrait of Mother for myself. I cannot stand the colorless photograph, and I am trying to do one in a harmony of color, as I see her in my memory.” Despite his intent to liven up her visage with his palette, van Gogh created a nearly monochromatic version—in a pallid, unnatural green. Nevertheless, this preeminent figure in the artist’s life sits attentive and proud—a model of middle-class respectability.

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Title: : 1 of 1