Self Portrait with Straw Hat, 1887 by Vincent Van Gogh

"Ah! Portraiture, portraiture with the thoughts, the soul of the model in it," Vincent van Gogh exclaimed to his art-dealer brother, Theo. Van Gogh's compassionate heart and interest in individual character - plus the wish of this lonely man to know himself and others - find expression in his portraits.

Van Gogh was probably more interested in the human face than other Impressionists, whom he encountered for the first time in 1886. The artist painted twenty-two self-portraits while living with his brother in Paris from 1886-1888. Later ones, like this Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat, reveal the artist's crumbling health. The three-quarter profile, deep shadows, and tight mouth suggest a man suffering physical and emotional stress. A haunted gaze from one blue and one green eye both pleads for our help and pushes us away. Van Gogh is dressed in the yellow straw hat and work coat of the peasant laborer, an often-worn costume befitting his self-image as a working man's artist.