Van Gogh's gaze is seldom directed at the viewer. The portraits vary in intensity and colour, and in those painted after December 1888 especially, the vivid colours highlight the haggard pallor of his skin. Some depict the artist with a beard, others without. He can be seen with bandages in portraits executed just after he mutilated his ear. In only a few does he depict himself as a painter. Those painted in Saint-Rémy show the head from the right, the side opposite his damaged ear, as he painted himself reflected in his mirror.
In April 1876 he returned to England to take unpaid work as a supply teacher in a small boarding school in Ramsgate. When the proprietor moved to Isleworth in Middlesex, Van Gogh went with him. The arrangement did not work out and he left to become a Methodist minister's assistant. His parents had meanwhile moved to Etten; in 1876 he returned home at Christmas for six months and took work at a bookshop in Dordrecht. He was unhappy in the position and spent his time doodling or translating passages from the Bible into English, French and German. He immersed himself in religion, and became increasingly pious and monastic. According to his flatmate of the time, Paulus van Görlitz, Van Gogh ate frugally, avoiding meat.
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