Charles Laval (1861 - 1894), Pont-Aven, 1888
oil on canvas,
50.7 cm x 60.4 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Charles Laval was a friend of Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard and worked with them both at Pont-Aven in Brittany. Bernard wrote to Van Gogh to say he wanted to come to Arles with Laval. He also proposed that they should exchange paintings. Van Gogh liked the idea: he did not know Laval, but was curious about his work.
In the end, Laval never came to Arles, but he did send Van Gogh this self-portrait. He painted himself in front of a window, through which we see a garden with a colourful tree. The tree, the glass of the window and his face are done in short, mostly vertical strokes. Other parts of the painting, such as the grass and the artist’s clothes are executed more sketchily, creating a watercolour effect.
Vincent was delighted with the portrait. He sketched it in a letter to Theo, to give him an impression of the painting. He described it as ‘very self-assured, very distinguished’, and wrote that it ‘will be precisely one of the paintings you speak of, which one takes before the others have recognized the talent.’