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Vincent Van Gogh is one of the few artists who is lodged in the public imagination not only for his artwork, but also his person. The Van Gogh we think of is something of a legendary figure, painting images that poured directly from his troubled psyche.
He is a figure honoured in film and song, as well as appreciated for his artwork. In part, this aspect of his legacy stems from Van Gogh's skill at self-portraiture: his most iconic works include not only landscapes such as Starry Night and still lives such as Sunflowers, but also images of himself - like his 1889 piece Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe.
As its title suggests, Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe comes from after one of the most infamous incidents in Van Gogh's life: the time at which he cut off his own ear. Suffering from mental health problems, Van Gogh has come to embody the emotional torment which tends to come with artistic genius. The painting is a striking depiction of a troubled master: Van Gogh's face is gaunt, his eyes showing an unreadable expression; his severed ear is covered with a rough white bandage, which seems like one more layer to join his heavy winter clothing, protecting him from the harshness of the outside world. The background is purely abstract, consisting of an orange block above a red block, which could be read as anything from a sunset to a brick wall depending on the viewer. A pipe is lodged between his red lips, offering the tortured genius a modicum of comfort.
One of Van Gogh's main skills as a painter was his ability to alternate between bold, rough, impressionistic strokes and finer, more naturalistic details in the same picture, and this skill is evident in Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe. Certain elements of the painting - particularly the heavy green coat that surrounds Van Gogh's shoulders - are bold and chunky, perhaps even cartoonish. His face, meanwhile, is more delicately rendered; the strokes are fairly thick, but they form together to create a subtle depiction of the artist's facial features. the smoke from his pipe is reduced to an assemblage of curved white strokes, adding a heavily abstract touch to the image: we can interpret these strokes in literal terms as tobacco smoke, or in a more figurative manner as the outpouring of the artist's imagination.
The unique nature of Van Gogh's artwork ensures that his pieces are popular subjects for prints. If you would like a print in your home that will honour one of the most inspired and iconic painters in history, then Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe by Vincent Van Gogh will be the perfect choice: it is an image that captures not only the unmistakable technique of the artist, but also his turbulent psyche.