What is particularly interesting and important about the piece is the ear. Vincent’s focus is on the ear, which is deliberately turned towards us. Van Gogh was never good at taking and sharing ideas with other artists. When Vincent and fellow artist Gaugin fell out Vincent felt it was his capacity to listen that was to blame. Gaugin fled the village despite Vincent offering him his ear to listen (his cut off ear). Unlike many of his earlier self-portraits Vincent paints himself in drab, dull clothes, without his traditional tie and hat. I think by this stage he had given up looking smart and in despair.
What I notice most about this piece is the shape of his face; unlike his earlier work the face is ugly. Van Goghs later work changed he seemed to make everyone look as ugly as possible. A drawn face and with every imperfection enounced, no wonder the onlooker is depressed to look at this piece. The background is colorful but lifeless so does not draw any attention away from the face, the focal point of the piece. He turns towards the picture perhaps to emphasize his bandage around his ear. The piece is so much like his others in the way it has been painted, the shoulders and the head, the head slightly above center. However unlike most of his earlier self-portraits the shoulders seem to be slumped. I am not sure what van Gogh was trying to say by the Japanese painting behind. Perhaps he wasn’t saying anything or maybe he was paying homage to the great Japanese artists. Van Gogh felt he hadn’t achieved anything in his life. Perhaps the painting of the blank canvas behind him was to highlight this state of emotion.
The painting in the way it has been painted is typical of van Goghs style. For a period Vincent was influenced by Seurat with his dots see (people walking in a public garden at Asineres) Van Gogh has been influenced, his typical style of painting is using a dash effect. This particular piece is completely done with dashes, with more dashes to build up depth.