A Painting I Like: Van Gogh's "Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear"

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 712 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Updated: 29 March, 2024

Words: 712|Pages: 2|4 min read

Updated: 29 March, 2024

Vincent Van Gogh, a luminary of the Impressionist era, has left an indelible mark on the realm of art with his profound ability to convey intense emotions through his paintings. His body of work from the late 19th century encapsulates a tumultuous life, laden with emotional depth and a unique perception of the world. This essay delves into one of his most poignant pieces, a painting I like - the "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear." A painting that stands as a testament to Van Gogh's turmoil and genius.

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Born into a time when the understanding of mental illness was nascent, Van Gogh's life was a canvas of vibrant highs and desolate lows. His journey into art began at 16, working as an apprentice for an art dealer. However, it was his personal trials, notably a severe bout of depression following an unrequited love, that began to shape his emotional and artistic landscape. These early experiences of solitude and despair were precursors to the more intense struggles that would permeate his later works.

The period between 1886 and 1888 was particularly prolific for Van Gogh, during which he created numerous self-portraits. These pieces were not mere exercises in self-examination but were reflective of his ongoing battle with depression. The "Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat" of 1887 showcases his experimentation with Neo-impressionist techniques, predating the dramatic episode that would lead to one of his most famous works.

"Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear," painted shortly after the infamous incident where Van Gogh severed his ear, is a powerful depiction of the artist's fraught psyche. Contrary to the vibrant swirls and expressive lines of his earlier works, this portrait is imbued with a palpable sense of melancholy. The use of color and composition reveals a man wrestling with his inner demons, standing against a backdrop that hints at his complex relationship with his surroundings.

Van Gogh's choice of colors in this piece is particularly telling. The juxtaposition of somber tones with the stark green of his eyes conveys a deep sadness, a departure from the warm, lively hues of his other paintings. This self-portrait does not just capture Van Gogh's physical state post-injury but serves as a mirror to his soul, reflecting an inner turmoil that words could scarcely articulate.

The incident that led to the creation of this masterpiece is as intriguing as the painting itself. After a confrontation with Paul Gauguin, a fellow artist and one-time friend, Van Gogh, in a fit of despair, cut off his ear. This act of self-mutilation was not just a cry for help but a pivotal moment that severed his relationship with Gauguin and marked the beginning of an even more isolating journey.

Following this episode, Van Gogh's work took on a new depth. "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear" is not just an account of his physical wounds but a profound expression of his psychological scars. The inclusion of a Japanese print in the background serves as a subtle nod to the external influences that shaped his art, even as he grappled with personal agony.

Van Gogh's stint in an asylum following the ear-cutting incident was a period of intense productivity and introspection. It was during this time that he produced some of his most celebrated works, including "Starry Night" and "Irises." These pieces, while highlighting his genius, also underscored the pervasive sadness that he could never fully escape.

In July 1890, Van Gogh succumbed to his mental torment, ending his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left behind a legacy that transcended his tragic end, influencing generations of artists and art enthusiasts. The "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear" remains a poignant reminder of his struggles and his unparalleled ability to communicate profound emotional experiences through his art.

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This painting speaks volumes, not just about Van Gogh's artistic prowess but also about his life, marked by periods of intense joy and profound sadness. It is a window into the soul of a man who, despite his inner turmoil, was able to create beauty that resonates with many. In this piece, I find a reflection of the human condition, a reminder of the depth of emotion that art can convey. Van Gogh's legacy is a testament to the power of art to express the inexpressible, making "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear" not just a painting I like but one I deeply admire.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A Painting I Like: Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”. (2020, May 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
“A Painting I Like: Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”.” GradesFixer, 19 May 2020,
A Painting I Like: Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
A Painting I Like: Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 May 19 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from:
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