In 1888, artist Paul Gauguin created a self-portrait entitled “Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables),” which features Gauguin as the character Jean Valjean from Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. The painting was part of an exchange of self-portraits between Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Emile Bernard as a symbol of their friendship.
“Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables)” is an example of the Symbolic art movement, which emphasizes the use of symbolism and metaphor to convey emotions and ideas. Gauguin, who was often misunderstood by the art world, compared the struggles of artists in his time to the character of Jean Valjean from Les Misérables.
The painting is currently housed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, where it serves as a testament to the enduring friendship between Gauguin, van Gogh, and Bernard. Gauguin’s self-portrait not only showcases his artistic talent but also highlights the importance of camaraderie among artists during a time when their work was often disregarded by society.