Editorial Feature

Van Gogh: From Self-Portraits to Street Art

His selfies, his inspirations and his influence

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and his art might well be the most instantly recognizable in the world, due in large part to his fascinating self-portraits. 127 years after his death, Van Gogh's popularity and influence show no signs of decline.

Google Arts & Culture and our partners present more than 217 Van Gogh works in high-resolution from over 50 different museum collections located on five continents. These include famous paintings, striking drawings and prints, and even some of his personal letters. To see all these works in person would certainly be the trip of a lifetime...you’d need to travel 20,000 miles (32,000 km ) to see them all.... or you can simply explore his selfies, and more here. Or take a selfie to discover if your portrait is in a museum. (This mobile experiment is currently available in Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Singapore and parts of the US. Stay tuned as we try to improve and expand!)

We've chosen a few of our favorite works below that show how Van Gogh continues to fuel the creativity of diverse artists today, and how he was inspired by artists and ideas from across the globe.

Self-Portrait, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh (collection: Musée d'Orsay, Paris)

Van Gogh’s image is so recognizable that it has been widely copied and interpreted by other artists. For example, compare Korean artist Myung Su Ham’s interpretation of Van Gogh's self-portrait with the original of 1889.

Vincent Van Gogh, 2006 by Ham, Myung Su  (collection: Korean Art Museum Association)

Do you recognize the familiar face painted on this brick wall? That piercing gaze, red hair and beard, and angular features, could only belong to one person. If you're a football fan, the figure standing to his left is none other than than the great Netherlands footballer Johan Cruyff.

Cruif-Van-Gogh, 2013 by Uriginal (location: Dirk Sonoystraat, Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, Amsterdam)

It's a re-interpretation of another Van Gogh self-portrait; perhaps this painting dated 1887 from The Art Institute of Chicago.

Self-Portrait, 1887 by Vincent Van Gogh (collection: The Art Institute of Chicago)

Van Gogh himself was inspired by the work of other artists both near and far. 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints exerted a powerful influence on his imagination. Compare for example the great Edo artist Hiroshige’s famous Bridge in Rain with Van Gogh's re-interpretation in paint on canvas .

Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, No. 58 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Hiroshige (collection: Brooklyn Museum)
Bridge in the Rain, after Hiroshige by Vincent Van Gogh (collection: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) 

Van Gogh reinterpretation of another Hiroshige's print - Flowering Plum Orchard - takes a dramatic turn with the painter dialing up the color contrasts and silhouette of the twisted tree branches in the foreground to mysterious effect.

Plum Garden in Kameido from 100 Famous Views of Edo by Hiroshige (Shimane Art Museum, Japan)
Flowering Plum Orchard by Vincent Van Gogh (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

As the saying goes, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Surely, Van Gogh is one of the most flattered artists in the history of art.

During the 1920s Van Gogh's work began to be catalogued and by the end of the decade the work of imitators and forgers began to proliferate as his reputation soared.

Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, 1925  by Imitator of Vincent Van Gogh (collection: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

The work that inspired this imitator exists in the same collection, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Self-Portrait, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh (collection: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Striking in its use of vibrant blues, the original painting is dated to 1889, making it one of Van Gogh's very last self-portraits before his untimely death in 1890.

We might ask why the 1925 version lacks the source work's intense palette. Maybe it was artistic license, or quite possibly the imitator saw neither the work at first hand nor a color reproduction of it.

Discover more about Van Gogh and his legacy here.

Google Cultural Institute
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