Van Gogh painted himself. His self-portraits are some of his best-known works.
Interestingly enough, Van Gogh also painted himself in written form. His letters to Theo, his brother, paint a fascinating picture of Van Gogh throughout his life.
Those letters can be accessed in unabridged form here:
Of course, all pictures misrepresent. And today, we are presented with pictures within pictures within pictures. It is enough to drive one mad.
But at the risk of driving someone to madness, here is a picture of Van Gogh composed from four sentences taken from a letter he wrote to Theo February 8, 1883 at the age of thirty.
I will call the picture:
Van Gogh at Thirty.
Sometimes I cannot believe that I am only thirty years old, I feel so much older.
I feel older only when I think that most people who know me consider me a failure, and how it really might be so, if some things do not change for the better; and when I think it might be so, I feel it so vividly that it quite depresses me and makes me as downhearted as if it were really so.
I sometimes think I will make an experiment, and try to work in quite a different way, that is, to dare more and to risk more,
What a mystery life is, and love is a mystery within a mystery. It certainly never remains the same in a literal sense, but the changes are like the ebb and flow of the tide and leave the sea unchanged.
At 30, Van Gogh considered himself a failure, as did most everyone else; he resolved to take more risks; and he was, it would seem, a romantic.
At 36, Van Gogh was unable to find love, unable to consider himself a success.
At 37, Van Gogh was dead.