“Van Gogh painted some 36 self-portraits in the space of only ten years. Perhaps only Rembrandt produced more, and his career spanned decades. For many artists, like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, the self-portrait was a critical exploration of personal realization and aesthetic achievement.” (National Gallery of Art)
Van Gogh, was the proverbial poor starving artist. Dying at age 37, van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime. (Ironic, don’t you think? In May 2015, Van Gogh’s 1888 “L’allée Des Alyscamps” sold for $66 million. In 1990 his “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $82.5 million.)
Impoverished, van Gogh had to borrow money to even buy his paints. Receiving few commissions, van Gogh painted his own portrait because he couldn’t afford to pay for models.
Frida Kahlo in her 47 years, painted 143 paintings; 55 are self-portraits. Frida Kahlo said, “I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to and I paint whatever passes through my head without any consideration.”
Picasso lived a prolific and colorful life until he was 91. Picasso who was 10 years old when van Gogh died, became a very wealthy man from his paintings.
“Picasso often used self-portraits to depict himself in the many different guises, disguises and incarnations of his autobiographical artistic persona.” (Art & Artists)
Picasso said, “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” (Art and Ants)