West Palm Beach , Florida -- 30 August 2010
VINCENT VAN GOGH (Dutch, 1853–1890): Self-Portrait, 1889. Oil on canvas, 22 ½ by 17 ¼ inches. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, 1998.74.5
Artfix Daily reports that the Norton Museum has swapped out Paul Gauguin, Christ in the Garden of Olives, 1889, for the Van Gogh Self Portrait at right.
For me, they traded up big-time.
Not only is Van Gogh's art far more powerful than Gauguin's, to me Paul Gauguin was the villain who instigated Van Gogh's ear-slicing incident. Instead of plunging the knife in Gauguin's back, Vincent took part of his own ear.
A scene in my modern Van Gogh novel -- Van Gogh, Encore -- deals with this incident in detail. The way I see it, Gauguin is to Van Gogh what Salieri was (possibly) to Mozart. That is, the villain who manipulates the more trusting and naive and more talented colleague.
The ArtFix Daily article linked above does give fine insight into Vincent's techniques and expressionism via color and texture:
But the haunting—indeed, the haunted—quality of Van Gogh’s picture is unforgettable. The dark blue-violet of the smock and ground, the vivid orange of his hair and beard, create a startling contrast to the yellow and green tones of his face and heighten the gauntness of his features and sallow complexion. The dynamic, even frenzied brushwork lends an uncommon immediacy and expressiveness to the Washington Self-Portrait: it is not just a record of the artist’s appearance, but a revelation of his precarious psychological state.