Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables) (1888; Arles-sur-tech, France) by Paul Gauguin

Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables) - Paul Gauguin - 1888; Arles-sur-tech, France

Artwork Information

TitleSelf-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables)
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1888; Arles-sur-tech, France
Dimensions45 x 55 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationVan Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

About Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables)

The artwork “Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables)” by Paul Gauguin is a significant piece from 1888, exemplifying the Post-Impressionist movement. Painted in oil on canvas, with dimensions of 45 by 55 centimeters, it is a self-portrait that also features a portrayal of fellow artist Émile Bernard. This painting currently resides at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

In the artwork, Paul Gauguin presents himself with a stern, contemplative expression, gazing directly at the viewer. His figure occupies the left side of the canvas, characterized by the use of bold, contoured lines and contrasting hues that create a somber, introspective atmosphere. The sharp delineation of Gauguin’s face is set against the rich tones of his clothing and the vibrant, almost monochromatic orange background, which adds to the intensity of his visage.

On the right side of the canvas, separated by a vertical divide, is the profile of Émile Bernard, rendered in a more sketch-like manner, with less color saturation than Gauguin’s self-representation. Including the portrait of Bernard within his own self-portrait, Gauguin creates a dialogue between the two artists. The title “Les misérables,” a nod to Victor Hugo’s novel, insinuated by the inscription, suggests a shared bond or possibly a commentary on the plight of artists. The addition of impressionistic flowers, floating between the two figures, introduces a decorative and symbolic element to the composition, contrasting with the heavy gazes of the portrayed individuals.

This self-portrait stands as a reflection of Gauguin’s artistic identity during a pivotal moment in his career and is indicative of the personal and stylistic transformations that marked his evolution as a pillar of Post-Impressionism.

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