Vincent van Gogh painted a total of some 35 self-portraits during the course of his career. Of these, about 29 date from Paris. He very much wanted to paint portraits in this period, but could not afford models, so for him painting self-portraits was more about practising portrait painting than some kind of a self-expression. It allowed him to experiment with various styles, techniques and effects of light and color.
The painting has discoloured. The background was originally blue with touches of dark red paint, but the red has become almost completely transparent.