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By Dena Burroughs
On loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena opened last Friday a display of Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 “Self-Portrait.”
Exhibited on the West Coast for the first time, “Self-Portrait” is a beautiful oil on canvas, approximately 23 x 17 inches in size, of bright blues, golden yellows, and emerald highlights depicting the artist with his famous severed ear away from the viewer and mesmerizing piercing eyes.
Painted just one year before his death, this is one of only three works in which van Gogh depicted himself as an artist (next to brushes and paint), out of his 36 known self-portraits. It was also the first one to give him critical notoriety.
At the Norton, “Self-Portrait” is set between two other van Gogh’s – “The Mulberry Tree” of 1889, and “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother” of 1888. The area in the Museum’s 19th century gallery now dedicated to van Gogh also displays an etching on paper entitled “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” from 1890, and a letter in his handwriting.
Van Gogh painted unceasingly during the last 10 years of his short 37-year-old life, creating about 850 pieces. He said that he wanted to do portraits that would look like apparitions to the people seeing them a century later. Today, about a century and a quarter later, in the eyes of his “Self-Portrait” you can almost see his ghost.
“Self-Portrait” will be at the Norton Museum (411 West Colorado Blvd in Pasadena) until March 4, 2013. For information call (626) 844-6900 or visit nortonsimon.org.
Van Gogh’s display at the Norton Museum. -Photo by Dena Burroughs