Zouave, 1888 by Vincent Van Gogh

At Arles Van Gogh's palette became more intense and at the some time he began to reduce the number of colours that he used making the paintings more direct and concentrated. This technique is seen here in the picture of the Zouave that revolves around black and red and variants thereof, making it immediately striking. At this time he also moved towards painting areas of flat colour that were sharply defined (in a similar manner to the Cloisonnists), which was a method that he gradually expanded. This was also a technique that his two friends Emile Bernard and Gauguin were employing in their paintings.

Portraiture was one of Van Gogh's favourite subjects, and he was always searching for people willing to sit for him. He described his approach to portraiture in a letter to Theo, 'I do not endeavour to achieve this by a photographic resemblance, but by means of our impassioned expressions - that is to say, using our knowledge of and our modern taste for colour as a means of arriving at the expression and the intensification of the character.'