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Portrait of the Artist's Mother, October 1888

Vincent van Gogh

Dutch, 1853-1890
Oil on canvas
16 x 12-3/4 in. (40.6 x 32.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

In September 1888, Van Gogh, living in the south of France, received from his sister Wilhelmina, still in the Netherlands, a photograph of their mother. He set out to make a painting after it, explaining, “I’m working on a portrait of Mother for myself, because the black-and-white photograph annoys me so.” Although he had hoped to enliven the sitter’s face with color, the resulting portrait is somewhat pale and sickly in tone. This has partly to do with the specific pigments Van Gogh used (his reds have faded with time), but the artist also confessed his dissatisfaction with the work, writing to his sister, “I don’t like Mother’s picture enormously.”

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