More about Self-Portrait with a Grey Felt Hat

  • All
  • Info
  • Shop

Sr. Contributor

Van Gogh's life was a big rough patch. Believe it or not, his vogue action here reads optimism.

Vincent had just moved to Paris in his brother's tiny apartment. They'd lived together in the Netherlands, which didn't go so well, but were willing to give it another old college try. Vincent took on the task of finding the brothers van Gogh a living situation they could be proud of. You know, bring some people back, paint them, get crazy. Bachelor pad, and all. They found a place in Montmartre, at the intersection of the chill old and fashionably new portions of the district. Van Gogh threw himself into his work in a rigorous fashion he'd never previously experienced. Decorating restaurant menus. Painting schlock for tourists. And then, painting himself.

Paris was a hard city for a painter to get noticed in. Van Gogh had neither an education nor wealthy parents to set him up for success. All he had going was an undeveloped talent and a debilitating fear of disappointing his brother. So he was biding his time, waiting for the other shoe to drop. One day, he looked in the mirror. Then he went through a self-portrait binge, painting himself more than 40 times. In the Grey Felt Hat version, Vincent's psyching himself up for life. He's got a positive attitude, a sweet hat, and a new pair of wooden teeth. Life's his for the taking. Looking at his portraits is like looking at his vision board while he's telling you about how The Secret really works. Nice to see he's trying, but sad to know it isn't going to work out.


Paris is a magical place and bohemian French artists can really help light up a man's canvas.

The man in this case is van Gogh, who came to Paris painting ominously dark portraits and landscapes that can only have been inspired by his dire Calvanist upbringing and that low Dutch sky. 

A few months of art classes and lots of late nights with creative brilliants like Henri de Toulouse-LautrecPaul CézanneClaude Monet and Paul Gauguin, and presto. Vincent's paintings are all of sudden lighter and color is beginning to show through. The Dutchman has an impossibly steep learning curve and a year later the colors explode on the canvas and the morose dark world and depressing self portraits are banished forever.