Van Gogh’s The One-Eyed Man

This portrait of a one-eyed man was done the same year as The Poet, a painting already shown here to be a representation of Van Gogh's poetic self. In choosing a man who may or may not have been one-eyed in life fas the subject for a portrait, Van Gogh symbolizes the two modes of poetic observation, sight and insight, in one man. The open eye, of course, represents observation of the exterior world while the closed one represents insight.

The man smokes, moreover, a traditional symbol in painting for artistic imagination.

Van Gogh would have seen similar use of both symbols in many earlier works of art before painting his own.

See the open and closed eyes of Donatello‚Äôs David and Goliath.

Captions for image(s) above:

Van Gogh, The One-Eyed Man (1888) Oil on canvas. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Click image to enlarge.


Original Publication Date on EPPH: 20 Apr 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.