Portrait of the Artist's Mother

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890)
October 1888
Oil on canvas 
16 x 12-3/4 in. (40.6 x 32.4 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
On View

In September 1888, Van Gogh, living in the south of France, received from his sister Wilhelmina, still in the Netherlands, a photograph of their mother. He set out to make a painting after it, explaining, “I’m working on a portrait of Mother for myself, because the black-and-white photograph annoys me so.” Although he had hoped to enliven the sitter’s face with color, the resulting portrait is somewhat pale and sickly in tone. This has partly to do with the specific pigments Van Gogh used (his reds have faded with time), but the artist also confessed his dissatisfaction with the work, writing to his sister, “I don’t like Mother’s picture enormously.”


[Ambroise Vollard, Paris].
Ann Rosenberg, Paris.
E. Druet, Paris, sold October 1904 to;
[Paul Cassirer, Berlin, sold May 1905 to];
Carl Moll (1861-1945), Vienna, until at least 1914.
[Paul Rosenberg, Paris, by 1928, still in 1937].
Reverend Theodore Pitcairn, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, by 1938 (sale, London, Christie’s, 28 June 1968, lot 112, to);
Norton Simon Art Foundation.

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