Self-portraits - Van Gogh And Rembrandt Essay

This essay has a total of 983 words and 4 pages.

Self-portraits - Van Gogh And Rembrandt

Each artist is an individual with a unique style, and although these styles can be similar
in practice - the individuality of the artist often proves the discriminating factor for a
successful artwork. Self-portraits are beneficial when looking at the individuality of the
artist as there are two aspects to look at - the artist's style, and the artist's view of
him/herself. The latter can provide a brief insight into the mental situation of the
artist as well as any apparent influencing factors of the artwork. This view can often
also include fragmental insights into the society and culture of the time. Rembrandt van
Rijn and Vincent van Gogh are 2 artists of whom are well represented by this statement.


Rembrandt was born into a Dutch society of the Baroque era . This time period influenced
his style of artwork heavily as these were the Post-High Renaissance years. This meant
that the accepted artworks of the society at the time were religiously based works
influenced by the efforts of the Reformation which was also occurring at the time. This
meant that Rembrandt painted his works using religious artwork methods such as the art of
chiaroscuro, strategically planning the composition of light and dark to give the figures
an enlightened or holy appearance. Therefore when Rembrandt painted self-portraits he
carried over these methods, painting himself in this almost holy presence with the use of
chiaroscuro. The self-portraits show a vast expressiveness that make the works successful.
Rembrandt longed to be like his Renaissance predecessors, often painting himself in the
garments and fashion trends of the Renaissance era. The most common of these portrayed
garments were the generic Berets that have now been typically associated with the common
artist as a stereotype. Looking at the untitled self portrait of 1657 (Figure 1) you can
see Rembrandt's attention to detail and his persistence to achieve life-likeness. He has
built up the wrinkled brow, the puckers of skin, in very detailed and effective passages
of reddish colours. You can see the application of chiaroscuro in this painting which is
obviously intentional as even his clothes, including fashionable beret, are dark to help
with the distribution of light and dark with the focus being on his face. This self
portrait is one I consider to be among his best. This work provides an insight into
Rembrandt's indifference to self-consciousness as you can see an aged, wrinkled man with a
large broad nose and gray wisps of hair, all of which he has made no attempt to positively
alter, he simply strives for realism in his works and finds no reason to alter the
physical reality of his work for mere aesthetic purposes. It provides an insight into the
culture of the time with the fashion state Rembrandt has depicted himself in as well as
the common chiaroscuro methods used in the painting which were common for the culture or
society of the time. The self-portrait of 1630 (Figure 2) shows how even from early in his
career Rembrandt strove for realism in his works. You are once again struck by the honesty
shown in this portrait. The absence of self-flattery helps to prove its success as an
expressive, realistic artwork. This work has another insight into the culture of the time
through his fashion. This time you can see him wearing black again, but with a lighter
coloured frilled collar on the shirt, simply showing fashion trends at the time.


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