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The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin) by Vincent van Gogh

The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin), 1889

Vincent van Gogh

This is a portrait of Joseph-Étienne Roulin, a postman who became Van Gogh’s close friend and model for several paintings. Roulin is shown here from the chest up, his body centered, with a steady gaze from his steely blue eyes . His mustache, green-tinged, hangs in shaggy clumps over his lips, while his salt-and-pepper beard is rendered as a brilliant ocean of color, using thick paint strokes in green, blue, purple, and red. The background is invented, a stylized decorative floral pattern. Yet despite these artistic flights of fancy, the postman’s face is gentle, kind and deeply human.

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The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia