As you all know by now, I do love to go to Museums. One that I was really looking forward to was the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Few artists are as well known as Van Gogh. Most people can see a Van Gogh from a distance and know that it is a Van Gogh. Something about his technique, brush strokes and use of color and perspective that stands out. But it didn’t always. In fact Vincent Van Gogh struggled to be known during his time. His short life only produced 10 years of work and ultimately ended in Suicide.
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous Dutch artists of all time. He was only active as an artist for ten years, from 1880 until his death in 1890. As a result of his enormous passion in those ten years Van Gogh produced an impressive body of work. About 800 paintings and more than 1000 drawings have been preserved, as well as a large number of watercolors, lithographs and sketches in letters.
Amsterdam is the home of the Vincent Van Gogh Museum opened in 1973, houses the majority of his paintings, drawings, sketches and letters are on display, in fact it is the Worlds largest collection of Van Gogh works. The museum also contains works by his contemporaries such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin, Monet, Bernard and Monticelli.
Throughout his life, Van Gogh wrote hundreds of letters to his brother Theo, and to other family members and friends. For him, these letters were an important means of communication and an outlet for his feelings. Much of what we now know about Van Gogh’s life, his background and what he read, saw and thought, comes from his own Biography: His Letters.
As a painter, he was largely self taught. With the help of textbooks, a few lessons at the art academies of Brussels and Antwerp, visits to museums and advice from artist friends, he taught himself the craft. His introduction to modern French art movements encouraged him to experiment.
As the years went by, he developed his own highly distinctive style of painting, using expressive brushstrokes and vivid colors. This style has since inspired and influenced many subsequent generations of artists. However Van Gogh’s success did not come easy or fast, he spent many years worried that he was not being taken seriously. His art was not being purchased as he thought it should have been. He viewed himself on the same level with his more contemporary peers, who were significantly more successful.
There is much made of the fact that he was extremely close to his brother Theo. In fact some speculate that a number of his self portraits are actually paintings of his twin brother Theo and not himself. Van Gogh wrote a tremendous amount of letters, the majority of his letters are written to Theo, his love for his brother is what drove him to learn more, try new innovative painting techniques, in an effort to gain the success he believed he deserved. His passion to be recognized as a leading artist in his time and the fact that he was not, drove him into an asylum. Many of his most famous paintings were done during his time incarcerated.
Most people are well aware of some of the most famous paintings by Van Gogh, Sunflowers, Iris’s, Starry Night etc., but are you aware there are more than just one of them, for example there isn’t just one Sunflowers, there are a dozen or more. Now they are different in brushstrokes, color, texture and composition, but Van Gogh would get stuck on a subject and pain it over and over again. Presumably trying paint just the right picture. Another interesting tidbit about Van Gogh, he went through an Asian Inspired period, painting numerous pictures of Peach Trees, Cherry Trees and Asian influenced scenes.
The Potato Eaters, Vincent Van Gogh