First major exhibition devoted to Van Gogh’s self-portraits across his career opens at The Courtauld Gallery

Press release, 3 February 2022

Download the press pack, including high resolution images here:

An unprecedented exhibition of Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits opens at The Courtauld Gallery on Thursday 3rd February, bringing together for the very first time around half of all Van Gogh’s self-portraits to explore the full range of the artist’s most enduring and personal subject matter.

An outstanding group of 16 self-portraits trace the evolution of Van Gogh’s self-representation, from the early Self-Portrait with a Dark Felt Hat, created in 1886 during a formative time in Paris that saw the radical transformation in Van Gogh’s style, to Self-Portrait with a Palette, painted at the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in September 1889, one of the last self-portraits created before his death in 1890. Some of the works in the exhibition were last together in Van Gogh’s studio and have never been reunited until now.

This is the first time the full span of Van Gogh’s self-portraiture has been explored in an exhibition, and it is the largest group to be brought together in more than 25 years. Alongside 16 self-portraits, the exhibition features two major paintings that played an important role in Van Gogh’s fashioning of his own image: Van Gogh’s Chair, described by the artist as a symbolic “self-portrait”, and Portrait of Eugène Boch, a portrait of his friend in which Van Gogh sought to convey his artistic ideals.

The exhibition takes as its springboard Van Gogh’s iconic Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, one of the most celebrated works in the collection of The Courtauld Gallery. It is shown together with masterpieces from major international collections – an exciting opportunity, given that many of these works are rarely lent.

Van Gogh was a prolific practitioner of self-portraiture. Thirty-five painted representations and two drawings survive, all created in just three and a half years, from spring 1886 to September 1889 when Van Gogh was between the ages of 33 and 36. His appearance is instantly recognisable, with his defined features, red beard, ginger hair and piercing green eyes. Curated by Dr Karen Serres, Curator of Paintings at The Courtauld, The Morgan Stanley Exhibition: Van Gogh. Self-Portraits will explore the myriad ways Van Gogh approached his most important subject: as an outlet for experimenting with new styles, a cheap and practical way of securing a model, a critical tool for psychological introspection, and a means of constructing his own identity and presenting himself to the outside world.

Dr Karen Serres, curator of the exhibition, said: “Van Gogh is an icon of self-portraiture. His self-portraits have come to define him in the public imagination, offering access to his personality and becoming the lens through which we view his genius, passion, resilience, and struggles. This exhibition is the first to explore the full span of Van Gogh’s self-portraiture, which is striking in its variety, offering a unique and fascinating opportunity to observe Van Gogh’s creative and personal development.”

The exhibition is presented in The Courtauld’s new Denise Coates Exhibition Galleries and is the first in The Morgan Stanley Series of high-profile temporary exhibitions at The Courtauld. It features paintings from major international collections, including the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford CT; the National Museum, Oslo; the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and the National Gallery, London.

Professor Deborah Swallow, Märit Rausing Director of The Courtauld, said: “The transformation and recent re-opening of The Courtauld Gallery have received wide acclaim and we’re thrilled that the Denise Coates Exhibition Galleries allow us to present this landmark exhibition in a beautiful space that will allow visitors to see the masterpieces at their very best. We are tremendously grateful to our sponsors, supporters, Patrons and Friends who have provided critical support to present the exhibition and in particular Morgan Stanley, Ken Griffin and the Huo Family Foundation.  The Morgan Stanley Exhibition: Van Gogh. Self- Portraits features one of the most celebrated and treasured works in The Courtauld collection, Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear alongside other, rarely lent masterpieces from international collections. We cannot wait to welcome our visitors to enjoy such a fascinating exhibition and for what we anticipate will be a highlight of the cultural calendar this year”.

Franck Petitgas, Head of International for Morgan Stanley, said “Morgan Stanley is delighted to partner with The Courtauld on Van Gogh Self-Portraits, the first in The Morgan Stanley Series of major exhibitions at the gallery. The range of stellar loans in this unique exhibition gives us the opportunity to reconsider Van Gogh’s extraordinary life, as well as the masterpieces he created, many of which are brought together for the first time from major collections around the globe.”

The new Denise Coates Exhibition Galleries were unveiled when The Courtauld Gallery reopened on 19 November 2021 following a major three-year transformation project. Created out of former office, conservation and circulation spaces on the top floor of Somerset House, this suite of two galleries enables The Courtauld to expand its acclaimed programme of international loan exhibitions.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by international specialists presenting new research.

An exclusive range of products inspired by the self-portraits of Van Gogh will be available to purchase at the newly refurbished Courtauld Shop and online, including fashion accessories drawing influence from the artist’s signature uniform, from worn-in straw to classic blue workwear jackets and a selection of stationary featuring artwork from the exhibition. Other highlights include a range of art and gift books exploring the artist and the process of self-portraiture and an edit of made to order reproduction prints.

An engaging programme of Lates, short courses, talks, family-oriented events and other activities will run for the duration of the exhibition. Highlights include: a free online workshop run by art historian Fran Herrick, artist Alex Blum and curator Karen Serres with The Courtauld Young People’s Programme, two Self-Portrait Family Days during the Easter holidays and an exciting new partnership with Hospital Rooms artist Susie Hamilton where workshop participants will create their own self-portraits.

Further details

Friends membership is available from just £5.50 a month, or £66 annually, and all active members of the Friends and Patrons programmes enjoy unlimited access to The Courtauld Gallery and its exhibitions throughout the year, discounts in the shop and café and much more.

The Morgan Stanley Exhibition: Van Gogh. Self-Portraits
3 February – 8 May 2022

Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm (last entry 5.15pm)
Weekend tickets from £20, Friends and Under-18s go free

The Courtauld Gallery

Somerset House, Strand
London WC2R 0RN

For more information and to book tickets:

The Courtauld

Bolton & Quinn
Erica Bolton | | +44 (0)20 7221 5000
Dennis Chang | | +44 (0)20 7221 5000

Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN

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About The Courtauld
The Courtauld works to advance how we see and understand the visual arts, as an internationally- renowned centre for the teaching and research of art history and a major public gallery. Founded by collectors and philanthropists in 1932, the organisation has been at the forefront of the study of art ever since through advanced research and conservation practice, innovative teaching, the renowned collection and inspiring exhibitions of its gallery, and engaging and accessible activities, education and events.

The Courtauld cares for one of the greatest art collections in the UK, presenting these works to the public at The Courtauld Gallery in central London, as well as through loans and partnerships. The Gallery is most famous for its iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces – such as Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. It showcases these alongside an internationally renowned collection of works from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance through to the present day.

Academically, The Courtauld faculty is the largest community of art historians and conservators in the UK, teaching and carrying out research on subjects from creativity in late Antiquity to contemporary digital artforms – with an increasingly global focus. An independent college of the University of London, The Courtauld offers a range of degree programmes from BA to PhD in the History of Art, curating and the conservation of easel and wall paintings. Its alumni are leaders and innovators in the arts, culture and business worlds, helping to shape the global agenda for the arts and creative industries.

Founded on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to engage with art, The Courtauld works to increase understanding of the role played by art throughout history, in all societies and across all geographies – as well as being a champion for the importance of art in the present day. This could be through exhibitions offering a chance to look closely at world-famous works; events bringing art history research to new audiences; accessible and expert short courses; digital engagement, innovative school, family and community programmes; or taking a formal qualification. The Courtauld’s ambition is to transform access to art history education by extending the horizons of what this is, and ensuring as many people as possible can benefit from the tools to better understand the visual world around us.

The Courtauld is an exempt charity and relies on generous philanthropic support to achieve its mission of advancing the understanding of the visual arts of the past and present across the world through advanced research, innovative teaching, inspiring exhibitions, programmes and collections.

The collection cared for by The Courtauld Gallery is owned by the Samuel Courtauld Trust.

About Morgan Stanley
Morgan Stanley is a leading global financial services firm providing investment banking, securities, wealth management and investment management services. With offices in more than 41 countries, the Firm’s employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals. For more information about Morgan Stanley, please visit

About Kenneth C Griffin
Ken Griffin is the founder of Citadel, one of the world’s most successful global alternative investment firms, and Citadel Securities, one of the largest market makers in the world. In addition to his wide ranging contributions in global finance, Mr Griffin has been recognised as one of the top philanthropists in America. His catalytic giving – amounting to over $1 billion in recent years – has included game-changing philanthropic initiatives to advance education, healthcare and economic opportunity. Mr Griffin is a passionate supporter of the arts and cultural institutions internationally, with a particular focus on expanding access to the many forms of creative expression to inspire and engage students of all backgrounds.

About The Huo Family Foundation
Since its inception in 2009, the Huo Family Foundation has given over $50 million to support projects in the UK, US and China. The Foundation’s mission is to support education, communities and the pursuit of knowledge. Through its donations, the Foundation hopes to improve the prospects of individuals, and to support the work of organisations seeking to ensure a safe and successful future for all society. The Foundation aims to make art more accessible to all through its support for galleries, museums and centres for the performing arts.