Portrait of Vincent van Gogh (1887) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The sketch is one of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's most famous pastel drawings. It features his friend, and fellow artist, Vincent van Gogh and was completed in the year 1887.

The medium of pastel ensures that in comparison to his work with oils, the content found here is more gentle and subtle on the eye. The two would study art together and formed a strong bond alongside a number of other members of their class. Here we find Vincent staring off into the distance, as if trying to come up with inspiration for his next painting. He is sat at a table, lent over in deep thought. A small empty glass lies just in front of him and behind we find elements of the room in which he sits. A window at the back allows a little light to come into the scene, but generally speaking there is a careful balance in this work which summarises some of the strengths of the pastel medium. He was highly familiar with the work of the Impressionists and they often made use of pastels themselves, which perhaps gave him the idea in the first place.

Experts on the life of Van Gogh have claimed that this portrait was produced in Café du Tambourin on the Boulevard de Clichy. They also believe that the Dutchman may have been in a relationship with the owner at the time. She would be featured in Agostina Segatori Sitting in the Café du Tambourin, for example. It is a real treat for art historians to be able to connect up models, artists and their friends through these different portraits and is something that is only really possible from the 19th century onwards, as there is a lack of knowledge to this depth prior to that in most cases. The portrait in front of us here was completed in 1887.

The artist completed this portrait on cardboard, and it is now within the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. They obviously specialise in work by the famous Dutchman, but there is also a good amount of work from other related artists, including items that inspired him during his own lifetime. French art dominated the world from around the 1850s up to the early 20th century, with one movement inspiring the next. Toulouse-Lautrec tapped into this opportunity whilst living in Montmartre, a district within the city of Paris which boasted most of the creative buzz at that time.