Date of Award

Spring 4-28-2019

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art and Art History

Department Chair or Program Director

McMillan, Jon

First Advisor

Kim, Suzie

Major or Concentration

Art History


This paper analysis the correlation of Vincent van Gogh’s mental and physical state with his application and choice of color in his self-portraits. His life before art held a heavy influence over his self-perception throughout his artistic career. Van Gogh could not escape his sense of guilt from failing his family, and constantly felt like a burden on his brother, Theo, who sponsored his artistic endeavors. Through Theo’s encouragement and work as an art dealer, van Gogh developed his own artistic style and met other popular artists from his time. His friendships along with his developing mental issues lead to an influx of development in the later half of his career, when van Gogh delved more into the realm of color. He expressed his current emotional state through his works, through the combination of colors and the application of the paint. His brush strokes and color combinations varied depending on the mood he was evoking. The analysis of his correspondences developments a better understanding of his current mental state at the time of each self-portrait. By analyzing his self-portraits, a direct comparison with his changing view of self is drawn through the comparison of his current mental state. The depiction of self varies depending on the utilization of color and brush stroke, showing the varying intensity of emotions. By developing an understanding of his use of color in representing his current perception of self, the same concepts can be applied to understand his mental state in other works of art.