Vincent Van Gogh was a major Post-Impressionist painter. He developed a painting style that built on the Impressionists’ methods but featured changes. His art showed more emotion and was noted for its color and expression. Van Gogh’s paintings had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art. His output includes self-portraits, landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields, and sunflowers. Our painting of the week is Vincent Van Gogh’s very famous Starry Night.
Van Gogh's Starry Night
YouTube video - Van Gogh's life story for children (4:12 min.)
YouTube video - Cartoon: Art With Mati and Dada - Van Gogh (7:13 min.)
Van Gogh's life
Vincent van Gogh is considered to be one of the greatest of painters, yet he was poor and virtually unknown throughout his life. Van Gogh once served as a minister for people in a coal mining region. His painting, The Potato Eaters, shows one of the poor coal mining families having a meal of potatoes.
Van Gogh's Potato Eaters
YouTube video - A scene about The Potato Eaters with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Van Gogh (3:38 min.)
Van Gogh developed a passion for painting and became a full-time artist. He often chose to buy paint supplies instead of food with the little money he had. His younger brother, Theo, started supporting Vincent with money and supplies.
Vincent and Theo Van Gogh
Portrait of pere Tanguy (Paris art supply store owner) by Van Gogh
Vegetable Garden in Montmartre (Paris) by Van Gogh
Vincent studied painting in Paris where he met up with other Impressionist painters of the period such as Degas and Seurat. After seeing the Impressionists' paintings, he brightened his palette and loosened his brushwork.
Van Gogh's portrait of Joseph Roulin (Postman at Arles)
Sunflowers by Van Gogh
Van Gogh moved to Arles, France where he produced the majority of his paintings.
Van Gogh's The Yellow House
While in Arles, Van Gogh painted his home (The Yellow House), townspeople, still lifes, and landscapes.
Bedroom by Van Gogh
Van Gogh began having problems. He developed a mental illness and had many bad times. Once he even cut off part of one of his own ears! Theo tried to help him by putting him in a mental hospital. Van Gogh continued to have mental problems but at times he was better than others, and he was still able to paint wonderful paintings. Van Gogh sadly died at age 37 from a self-inflicted wound.
Harvest at La Crau, with Montmajour in the Background by Van Gogh
His artistic genius wasn’t recognized until after his death.
Van Gogh's The Starry Night
Van Gogh created Starry Night in 1889 just thirteen months before his death while he was staying in a mental hospital. Starry Night is believed to show the view from his bedroom window. In the Starry Night painting, van Gogh's night sky is brimming with energy and it contrasts with the silent village below. The town was from his imagination and the church spire looks like one from his homeland, the Netherlands. In Starry Night, Van Gogh´s unique, thick brushstrokes are very evident. His swirling brush strokes give the impression that this painting is constantly moving.
Wheat Field With Cypresses by Van Gogh
Cypresses Against a Starry Sky by Van Gogh
Van Gogh includes a cypress tree in The Starry Night which serves to connect earth and sky. Two other paintings by Van Gogh also included cypress trees.
Starry Night Over the Rhone by Van Gogh
Van Gogh was a huge fan of nighttime and he painted other night scenes such as Starry Night over the Rhone and Café Terrace at Night.
Though it is now considered one of his masterpieces, records show that van Gogh was disappointed in the quality of this painting. Van Gogh’s The Starry Night is now located in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is a famous and much loved work of ark. A popular song was even written about it by Don McLean called “Vincent”.
YouTube Video - Don McLean's Starry Starry Night Song With Slides of Van Gogh Paintings (5:19 min.)
YouTube video - Animated short look at Van Gogh's The Starry Night (:45 sec.)
Van Gogh's Painting Styles
Two Peasant Women in the Peat Field by Van Gogh
Peasant and Peasant Women Planting Potatoes by Van Gogh
Many of Van Gogh’s early paintings featured peasants working the countryside and most had a dark, moody tone.
The Fourteenth of July Celebration in Paris by Van Gogh
Paris Cafe by Van Gogh
In Paris, van Gogh first saw Impressionist art, and he was inspired by the color and light. He began using brighter colors, made his brushwork looser, and used more paint, letting how he applied the paint become part of the look he wanted.
Detail from The Poet's Garden by Van Gogh
The Poet's Garden by Van Gogh
If you see a Van Gogh painting in person, you can see the very thick swirls of paint he used. He and other artists began expressing emotion through bold colors and images. Their artistic methods are known as Post-Impressionism.
View of Arles With Irises by Van Gogh
Almond Blossoms by Van Gogh
Van Gogh, like many artists, was influenced by Japanese art. He painted several versions of landscapes with flowers and paintings of flowers. Some flower paintings reflect his focus on the language of color, and some show his interest in Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
Van Gogh's en plein air painting equipment
Van Gogh completed many landscape paintings “en plein air.” That is when an artist paints directly at the site he’s painting.
Portrait of Patience Escalier by Van Gogh
Portrait of Madame Roulin by Van Gogh
Although Van Gogh is best known for his landscapes, he also liked the challenge of painting portraits.
Self-portraits by Van Gogh
Van Gogh created many self-portraits during his lifetime. He drew and painted himself more than 43 times. In his self-portraits he seldom is looking at the viewer.
Vincent Van Gogh's signature
Van Gogh's legacy
Van Gogh produced more than 2,000 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, and sketches over the course of his short ten year career. He sold just one painting during his lifetime, yet after his death his work became in demand.
Letter from Van Gogh to Theo
Letter from Van Gogh to Theo
Another legacy in addition to his paintings that we have from Van Gogh is his thoughts about art. These can be found within the scores of letters he wrote to his brother Theo. “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better,” he wrote in 1874. “Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”
Vincent and Theo Van Gogh's graves
Theo was very upset after Van Gogh’s death and he himself died just six months later.
Van Gogh's Chair by Van Gogh
Self-Portrait by Van Gogh
Van Gogh’s art had a big impact on 20th century art. His paintings are some of the most valuable in the world and are displayed in museums in many countries.
Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
Interior of the Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh has a museum dedicated to him alone. This is located in Amsterdam which is in his home country of the Netherlands.
Mrs. Hesse admiring irises at the Van Gogh Museum
Mrs. Hurdle viewing Wheatfield With Crows in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.