Self-Portraits - Van Gogh and Rembrandt

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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...
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