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Van Gogh – Exploring the Visionary Genius Behind the Brushstrokes

Who was Vincent van Gogh?

Vincent Willem van Gogh, also known as Van Gogh, was a world-renowned Dutch post-impressionist artist. He was widely regarded as one of the greatest artists and one of the most influential figures in the history of Western art. He was born on March 30, 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands, and left the world by committing suicide on July 29, 1890. His art journey began quite late in his life, but his art transcends time and inspires everyone to reach for their dreams and never give up on pursuing excellence. Van Gogh’s famous paintings, from “The Starry Night” to “The Potato Eaters”, each show his riveting life and timeless legacy.

Despite struggling with several major mental health issues, he produced many artworks, drawings, paintings, and sketches over just a decade. His artistic style was unique, illustrated by striking colors, explicit brushwork, and emotional intensity. His works include landscapes, portraits, self-portraits, nature, still-life objects, and the everyday lives of ordinary people, which had a profound impact on the art world. He was able to capture the essence of his subjects and infuse them with personal feelings, knowledge, and experiences. 

Unfortunately, the word art gave recognition to this artistry after his death. Van Gogh’s post-impressionist style influenced artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and others. His contribution to the development of modern art can never be underrated, and masterpieces like “The Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “Irises” are still some of the most iconic works in the world. Van’s legacy inspires and fascinates countless individuals, solidifying his status as a visionary genius behind the brushstrokes for many generations to come. Through local experiences, many can learn more about him and draw like him with the help of art experts from different parts of the world.

What are some famous paintings by Van Gogh?

Some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous paintings are “Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” “The Potato Eaters,” “Irises,” “Café Terrace at Night,” “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear,” “Wheatfield with Crows,” “Portrait of Dr. Gachet,” and “The Bedroom”. These are just a few examples of his remarkable work, in which he used expressive brushwork, vivid colors, and emotional compositions. His notable work continues to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts globally.

1. Starry Night (1889)

Starry Night is recognized as one of the most iconic oil-on-canvas paintings in the history of art. It was painted in June 1889 and is now located at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, USA. Gogh’s starry night is associated with his deteriorating mental health and experiences. He preferred producing his work from observation of the subjects around him. The morning starry night illustrates a swirling sky filled with vibrant stars, just before sunrise, from the window of his asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. Below the sky, he added a peaceful, imaginary small hillside village. The large cypress tree depicts the connection between earth and sky, like life and death. This painting symbolizes him dreaming about heaven and death. He stayed in an asylum for a year after suffering a severe breakdown in which he even damaged his ear with a razor. After a year of completing this painting, the famous painter committed suicide. It seems that the starry night was an indication of his suicide.

In his letters to his brother Theo, he wrote extensively about stars. Starry Night is without a doubt the most dynamic and captivating composition by Van Gogh. The starry night is a moderately abstract landscape. The use of swirling brushstrokes and bold colors in the painting keeps the audience captive for hours.

2. Sunflowers Series (1888–1899)

The Vincent van Gogh Sunflower series was produced from 1888 to 1889. These are some of the most famous paintings in the world. But what makes the Sunflowers series so iconic? And why did he choose to paint them? The series includes multiple versions of his beloved sunflowers, showcasing his mastery of still life, and is now located all around the world, from Tokyo to London. The painting series illustrated various growth stages of the sunflower with vibrant and lively colors. There are a total of 5 artworks in the sunflower collection; the most famous version among them is called ‘Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers, which is placed at the National Gallery Museum, London. The painter was hoping to sell it for $125 when he was alive, but it was bought for $39.85 million by the Japanese insurance magnate Yasuo Goto.

The story behind the Sunflower series is that Van Gogh once saw a large sunflower in a window near his gallery, and that inspired him to paint his first series of sunflowers. He mentioned this to his brother, a prominent art dealer, in a letter. He used different variations of yellow in his series, which was criticized a lot by fellow artists. His series became visionary because of the use of a single color spectrum.

3. The Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888)

Art Van’s “The Starry Night Over the Rhone”, is a little similar to “Starry Night”. The painting showcases a starry night and was painted on the bank of the phone, which was 2 minutes away from his ranting place, the yellow house on La Martine, Arles, France. His painting depicts the street lamps’ reflection on the water. This painting shows the serene and enhancing scene of nighttime, where the color blue overpowers city gas lamplights and stars sparkle like gemstones. The painting shows a town at a distance right across the river, illuminated by bright stars, which make up almost a third of the composition in the upper part. In the lower part, there is a dock with several small boats, and two people on the right side seem to be relaxing and walking.  It has been reported that Van Gogh sat outside by the Phone River while he painted the scene under a gas lamplight. The estimated value of this famous oil painting is predicted to be over $200 million.

In many letters he wrote to others, he expressed how he was inclined towards capturing the night and its effects on canvas. The starry night over the Rhone painting was one of these desires that came true to depict the light effects at night. 

In a letter to his brother Theo, Van Gogh described this painting as follows:

“in short the starry sky painted by night, actually under a gas jet. The sky is aquamarine, and the water is royal blue, the ground is mauve. The town is blue and purple. The gas is yellow, and the reflections are russet gold descending to green-bronze. On the aquamarine field of the sky, the Great Bear is a sparkling green and pink, whose discreet paleness contrasts with the brutal gold of the gas.”

4. Irises (1889)

“Irises” is one of many paintings of ‘Irises’ by Van Gogh in the last year before his departure from this world. It’s one of a series of paintings he painted at the asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. This oil painting on a medium-sized canvas illustrates a stunning arrangement of irises in both rich blue and purple shades. The color contrast and use of thick brushstrokes give a sense of depth.

In the year 1888, after many episodes of hospitalization and self-mutilation, Van decided to go to the asylum. He called this painting “the lightning conductor for my illness” because painting was the only thing that kept him sane during the asylum period.

Each one of the paintings from the Irises collection is unique, as he tried to give them three-dimensional views. He observed the movement and shapes of flowers in the garden of the asylum to create a variety of beautifully curved silhouettes.

Vincent’s brother Theo stated while submitting the series to the museum:

“It strikes the eye from afar. It is a beautiful study full of air and life.”

In 1987, after years of Van’s passing, this painting became the most expensive work ever sold. The set price-selling record of 53.9 million USD stood for two and a half years. The painting, Irises, is considered the most expensive painting ever sold. This painting can be seen at the J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly called the Getty Museum, in Brentwood, USA.

5. The Potato Eaters (1885)

The Potato Eaters is considered an early masterpiece of the world’s famous painter. The painting demonstrates the dedication to portraying the lives of rural peasants. The Potato Eaters depicts a group of peasants sitting over a meager meal at a dining table, highlighting the hardships of farm labor. The painter created three surviving studies of the potato eaters before completing his painting. After the completion of The Potato Eaters in 1885, he thought it was his best work, and the masterpiece Starry Night was a failure. According to fellow painter and friend Anthon van Rappard, Vincent thought this work would be the ticket to the Persian art market, but instead, he received negative remarks from people. 

The subject of this masterpiece is the Dutch farming family de Groots of his acquaintance. He also painted “The Cottage” in the same year, the de Groots home at the farm. He spent the whole winter practicing the hand and head before painting the final version of this art piece. He was dissatisfied with the fresh version, so he repainted it to give it the color of a dusty potato. He sent the lithograph of this painting to his brother Theo in the hope of getting his feedback.

An interesting fact about Van’s art, “The Potato Eaters,” is that it has been stolen twice, once from the Kroller-Muller Museum and then from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. The thieves took the artwork of other painters as well, but both times the paintings were recovered.  The painting The Potato Eaters stayed in the possession of the Van Gogh family after Vincent’s death. In 1962, it became the property of the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation. It is now at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum on permanent loan, and it is worth around $91 million US. Today, The Potato Eaters is considered one of the most famous artworks, which vindicates the claim of the artist that painting was “the best thing I did”.

Why is Van Gogh famous?

The post-impressionist painter Van Gogh became popular after his death in the late 20th century. His unique style, emotional expression, and use of vivid colors have a profound influence on modern art. During his lifetime, he was not widely appreciated, but after his death, his work sold for record-breaking sums. The difficulties he faced in his life are shown in his artwork in the form of a fascinating story, which gives comfort and hope. 

How many paintings did Van Gogh create?

In his 10-year artistic career, he created approximately 2,100 artworks, including around 900 oil paintings and 1,300 watercolors, drawings, and sketches. From the age of 27 up until his early demise at 37, he painted some 36 self-portraits.

Did he sell any paintings during his lifetime?

The answer is no! The great artist only managed to sell a few paintings during his lifetime. Throughout his career, he was financially struggling. According to some sources, he managed to sell only one painting called The Red Vineyard for about 400 Francs to the painter and art collector Anna Boch. All the fame and recognition he got years after his tragic demise His most recognizable and expensive works of art worldwide were created during the last two years of his life.

What is his most expensive painting?

The most expensive painting ever sold by Van Gogh was the portrait of his close friend Doctor Paul Gachet, called “Portrait of Dr Paul Gachet” which he painted in 1890. It was sold in 1990 for a whopping $83 million, and its current estimated value is $152 million. Dr. Gachet was the last person who took care of Van Gogh before his tragic death.

The portrait of Dr. Paul Gachet was first acquired by the Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito. He loved the painting so much that he wished to be cremated with it. It didn’t happen, and the painting was sold again, but the second buyer couldn’t keep it for long due to financial reasons. It was last sold to an anonymous billionaire in Europe. This painting is considered the heartbroken expression of that time, and the artist made two paintings of this kind. The second painting is currently housed in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay.

Did Van Gogh cut off his ear?

Yes, he did cut off part of his left ear with a knife during a period of mental distress in 1888. He then packed up his ear and gave it to a prostitute in a nearby brothel. He was later admitted to the hospital in Arles. His circumstances and motivations behind this act are still mysterious. According to experts, it was following a furious row with Paul Gauguin at the Yellow House. Gauguin was the artist he was working with for a while in Arles.

How did Van Gogh die?

The Dutch painter committed suicide on July 29, 1890, at the age of 37. He shot himself in the chest with a revolver in a field of Auvers, and because of the wound, he died two days later. His brother Theo was at his bedside when he took his last breaths. It is believed that the artist was exhausted from his struggling artistic career and the high standards he set for himself.

Did Van Gogh suffer from a mental illness?

According to the study conducted by the International Journal of Bipolar Disorder, the Dutch artist Vincent V. Gogh had a history of mental health issues, including episodes of depression and psychosis. His struggles with mental illness greatly influenced his life and artwork. It states that it is evident that the artist most likely suffered from comorbid illnesses. He likely developed a mood disorder with borderline personality disorder. The situation became worse with the combination of alcohol use and malnutrition. This all put him in a situation where he cut his ear off. With time, he couldn’t fully recover, and his depression episodes became worse, most probably due to two deliriums related to withdrawal from alcohol. This all leads him to suicide.

Another study by a clinical professor of pathology states that his excessive use of yellow in the paintings indicates that he was consuming 182 liters of alcohol to have such color hallucinations. Another reason could be overmedication with digitalis. People with excessive use of drugs start to see the world in a yellow-green tint. The artist physician, Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, who treated him in his last times, may have tried to treat his epilepsy with digitalis (it is important to note that his practice of treating patients was considered common in those times).

Art Style of Dutch Artist Gogh

The Dutch artist is famous for his bold and dramatic brush strokes, which express deep emotions. He started off his artistic career as a self-taught artist by studying drawing books from the 19th century and copying the style of various prints. He focused a lot on mastering the black-and-white combination, as he believed that learning the fundamentals of sketching, especially landscapes, was crucial. Once he was satisfied with the stretch, only then did he begin adding colors. It is believed that he used paint straight from the tube (impasto) regularly. He mostly sketched individuals, light, and the environment using black chalk, a pencil, blue chalk, red chalk, a reed pen, and charcoal. He used different types of papers for his sketches and easily accessible materials in a blended form. The artist then started experimenting with lithography (a printmaking process using stone and metal) in 1882 and produced 10 graphic sequence works. For one of the most famous paintings “The Potato Eaters”, he created a lithograph of the painting to reach more people in the art market and earn money. 

When he moved to Paris in 1886, he was influenced by the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist movements and changed his direction of art drastically. This helped him create his own style. The use of rich and vibrant colors and signature brush strokes sets his paintings apart from those of other artists.

Where can I see Van Gogh’s paintings?

The famous paintings of this iconic artist are displayed in museums and art galleries all around the world, from Cardiff to Mexico City. Here is where to find his most renowned works

  1. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
  2. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  3. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
  4. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, US
  5. National Gallery, London, UK
  6. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US
  7. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Are there any Van Gogh museums?

The world’s largest collection of the artist can be found at the Van Gogh Museum, located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The first masterpiece of the famous painting “The Potato Eaters” can be found there, among many others. The ticket price for adults is 20 euros each, and visitors under 18 are free. For international students, it is 10 euros per person.

Did Van Gogh have any notable artistic influences?

He was influenced by various art movements and artists, including French artist Jean-François Millet, French painter Oscar-Claude Monet, Dutch golden age painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, French romantic artist Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, Flemish artist and diplomat Sir Peter Paul Rubens, and many others. Most of all, he had an artistic influence on the Japanese artist Hiroshige (1797–1858).

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