A Van Gogh Self-Portrait Heads to Wales in a Landmark Loan From Musée D’Orsay

The painting will feature in the National Museum in Cardiff’s "Art of the Selfie" exhibition.

Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of the Artist (1887). Photo: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images.

Opening on March 16, the National Museum in Cardiff’s “Art of the Selfie” exhibition will feature Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of the Artist (1887), the first time the work has ever been on show in Wales.

The painting, one of at least 24 self-portraits created by Van Gogh during his first two years in Paris, is part of a reciprocal loan between the National Museum and Paris’s Musée D’Orsay. In turn, the Musée D’Orsay is being lent Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s La Parisienne (1874)—affectionately known as The Blue Lady—which has been in the Cardiff collection since 1952. The painting will feature in the show, “Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism.”

These loans come at the end of the Welsh Government’s Wales in France initiative, aimed at strengthening cultural bonds between the two nations. The project has held more than 40 events over 2023 including joint concerts by the BBC National Orchestra and Wales and the Orchestre National de Bretagne.

Dawn Bowden, Wales’s deputy minister for culture and sport, called the artwork exchange a “fitting way to close our year of Wales in France” in which “France has become Wales’s number one export for food and drink, dance, music, and sports.”

The collections and research director at Cardiff’s National Gallery, Kath Davies, said she is “sure visitors to the museum will enjoy seeing this work by one of the world’s best-known painters displayed alongside paintings by artists from our collection here in Wales.”

The “Art of the Selfie” explores painted self-portraits as the first “selfies,” a term that entered popular usage in 2002 and went on to become Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2013. Other works in the show include paintings by Rembrandt and Francis Bacon. The self-portraits going on display, Davies said, “show the different ways in which artists have chosen to characterize themselves in the same way we present and share images or ourselves today.”

“Many artists have used self-portraits as ways to explore their identities and express themselves to the world,” the exhibition’s press release explained. Van Gogh is given as a key example of this, a prolific self-portraitist who may have painted as many as 40 self-portraits in the five-year span between 1885 and his death in 1890.

“Art of the Selfie” is on view at the National Museum in Cardiff, Cathays Park, Cardiff, from March 16 through January 24, 2025. “Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism” is on view at the Musée D’Orsay, Esplanade Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Paris, France, from March 26 to July 14.

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