Vincent van Gogh Blog

Get ya Van Gogh paintings outta my face!


Feb 28 2012 08:50PM | by Staff Editor

Van Gogh admirers – and let’s face it we’ve all failed to meet someone who doesn’t admire him in some way – will all know that an outstanding exhibition is now running at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Entitled Van Gogh Up Close, several Van Gogh masterpieces will now be on show that feature the most intense and vibrant phase of Van Gogh, one that sadly corresponds to his mental depression, i.e. the period just before his death. While there are some major hits, other lesser known Van Gogh paintings truly complete the greatness of the artist. One such work is Rain (1889), an oil on canvas measuring 73.3 x 92.4 cm and loaned from the Henry P. McIlhenny Collection. The work Rain was completed just after Vincent van Gogh voluntarily entered the mental clinic of Saint-Paul-de-Mausolée in southern France on May 8, 1889. The picturesque institution was located on a mountain range near Arles, where the artist had just spent the winter painting. Unfortunately the cold and the bleakness meant that he also suffered depression, which required hospitalisation. Ironically, a hospital was perhaps the best place for Vincent to work – with his basic needs cared for he could... Read more

Van Gogh refocused


Feb 15 2012 11:00PM | by Staff Editor

A Van Gogh painting has been in the news recently, courtesy of a record value sale for the artwork. The artwork, Vue de l'asile de la Chapelle de Remy, sold for £10,121,250, or $15,991,575, nearly $16 million, if we want to keep things simple. The work was part of the late Elizabeth Taylor’s estate, which notably featured other artworks from artists such as Edgar Degas, Monet, Pissarro and Hals. The Van Gogh, however, was by far the most valuable. The Vue de l'asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy is an oil on canvas work measuring 45.1 x 60.4 cm, painted in Saint-Rémy in Autumn 1889. It is significant because it was produced during a time when Van Gogh was hoping to recover from his most serious bout of depression, moving from a phase of intense insular confinement on doctor’s orders, to being able to move about freely and re-express his emotions (no doubt a constant balancing act for him). As the notes accompanying the auction piece said: “Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy dates from the period after his recuperation, and clearly captures a sense of the release and joy that he felt, once more able... Read more

The Potato Eaters


Feb 02 2012 09:15AM | by Staff Editor

Vincent van Gogh didn’t really emerge as a professional artist until he was in his thirties, living with his parents in Nuenen in the Netherlands. While nowadays he may be most widely recognised for the work that he completed in his latter years, following his move to Paris in 1886, many of his earlier works still demonstrate his artistic mastery prior to the influence that Impressionism would have on him. One of the most well known paintings in his early oeuvre, and arguably his first major work, was De Aardappeleters, otherwise known as The Potato Eaters, created by van Gogh in 1885 – we’re going to take a closer look at the work itself as well as the early influences that helped to shape its creation. Prior to his move to France and his association with the Impressionists, van Gogh influences lay much closer to home, in the form of Dutch artists such as Jozef Israëls and Anton Mauve, both of whom were members of the Hague School. The group was composed of artists who lived in and around The Hague between 1860 and 1890, and who were heavily influenced by the Realist paintings by members of the Barbizon School... Read more

The Establishment Of Modern Day Van Gogh


Jan 10 2012 05:50PM | by Staff Editor

Nowadays when we consider the oeuvre of Vincent Van Gogh and the performance of his work at auction, it becomes immediately apparent that he is one of the world’s most in demand artists. His 1890 oil painting Portrait Of Dr. Gachet is the fourth most expensive painting ever sold, fetching $144.1 million when the price is adjusted to take inflation into account. Portrait of Joseph Roulin (1889) sold for what would now be more then $107 million, Irises (1889) was sold for the modern day equivalent of $105.1 million, Self-Portrait Without Beard (1889) went for $98.5 million, A Wheatfield With Cypresses (1889) sold for $89.2 million, Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers (1888) sold for $79.9 million and Peasant Woman Against A Background Of Wheat (1890) sold for $66.8 million. Those seven works alone generated more $670 million, but that level of commercial success, or really anything even approaching it, would have been completely foreign to Van Gogh during his lifetime. Indeed, he lived most of his life in relative poverty and obscurity, often relying on the charity of his brother Theo to support him. It is widely believed that while he was alive he only managed to sell a single painting,... Read more

Hospital In Arles Series


Dec 27 2011 09:37AM | by Staff Editor

Around this time 124 years ago, Vincent Van Gogh was experiencing one of the worst Christmases of all time. He had fallen out with Paul Gauguin who had left him alone in Arles in southern France, the lobe of his left ear had been cut off (whether by him, or by someone else still seems to be a matter of contention) and his mental condition had begun to deteriorate significantly. For Van Gogh, Christmas of 1888 and the New Year were spent in the Old Hospital of Arles, also known as Hôtel-Dieu-Saint-Espirit. Van Gogh was discharged in early 1889 but his increasingly erratic behaviour around the town of Arles resulted in more than 30 locals signing a petition, asking that he be committed for his own safety and theirs. By April 1889 he was once again under the care of Dr Félix Rey. Van Gogh didn’t waste his time while he was recuperating (or at least attempting to do so). There were no TVs, trashy novels and magazines, or iPods to fill his time, and he didn’t exactly have a stream of visitors queuing up to see him – after all, his nickname around town was “fou roux”, meaning “the... Read more

Dreaming Of Vincent


Dec 25 2011 09:14PM | by Staff Editor

While the work of Dutch post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh has normally been appreciated in its traditional oil on canvas format, a recently created application for the Apple iPad is bringing Van Gogh to a new generation of tech savvy 21st Century art enthusiasts. Van Gogh’s Dream has been created by software development company Mnestra under the leadership of the Van Gogh institute in Amsterdam, and has integrated the final 80 Van Gogh oil paintings (created by the artist in the last 70 days of his life) with personal letters from Van Gogh, and video analysis and contributions from leading global experts. The app has been the painstaking work of three men, Fouzi Louahem, Loic Sander and Wouter van der Veen, who have spent and an estimated 1,200 hours in building, designing and writing the app. According to Loic Sander, “This app is giving readers a whole new interactive perspective on Van Gogh work and life. It’s an intuitive, tactile, sensitive experience. Technology has helped us build a bridge between the art and emotion of Van Gogh and our readers.” All three hail from the French city of Strasbourg where Gutenberg so famously took strides in the mid-15th Century that would... Read more

Just who was Theo Van Gogh?


Nov 27 2011 07:11PM | by Staff Editor

The importance of Theo Van Gogh is hard to overstate: without his unfailing support and love for his older brother, the chances are Vincent Willem van Gogh, the artist, would have given up long ago and possibly committed suicide much earlier in his life. Not only would it be a tragic loss for to family, it would have been a tragic loss for the history of art as Van Gogh paintings, or a significantly fewer number of them, simply wouldn’t exist. Theo himself, while posthumously not as famous as his brother, nevertheless led a full life, with his progeny extending the Van Gogh name as well. Theodorus “Theo” van Gogh was born on May 1, 1857, in the village of Groot-Zundert, Brabant, The Netherlands. His early career saw him follow his older brother into the Dutch office of the Paris based art dealers Goupil & Cie. Theo was their youngest ever employee showing great aptitude, and when Vincent was transferred to the London office, Theo would follow for a few year. In 1884 Theo moved to Paris to work at the head office – at this point in time Vincent was living in the Netherlands painting again. It was at... Read more

Van Gogh: Up Close (and personal)


Nov 20 2011 11:54AM | by Staff Editor

It may seem a bit early to advertise an exhibition, but nevertheless we’ll jump on the bandwagon and help plug what should be a standout show for Canadians and the wider North American community, Van Gogh: Up Close, to be held from May 25, 2012 to September 3, 2012, at the National Gallery of Canada (the organisers, along with the Philadelphia Museum of Art). It’s being billed as the first major project for a Dutch artist in over 20 years, and will look at Van Gogh’s innovative use of the close-up view, or for the young’uns, the macro shot! Van Gogh was actually an artist who pioneered the use of depth of field and focus, often varying “the zoom” between and indeed within different oil paintings. For example a flower may contain a lot more detail than a comparative patch of grass, even though they are roughly located at the same point on the canvas. Was he a photoshop provocateur? This use of zoom, and other artistic methods, is examined in about 50 Van Gogh oil paintings as well as some related Japanese prints. Where did Van Gogh garner the skills and insight necessary to produce this artistic innovation? Researchers... Read more

Van Gogh paintings aged to the perfect cheese


Oct 30 2011 11:25AM | by Staff Editor

We’re not sure if Vincent Van Gogh was into his cheese, but we suspect he was being Dutch and all. In a previous post we talked about the re-creation of Starry Night with different types of bacon and now we have Van Gogh vintage cheeses fit to be eaten while viewing any oil paintings. Names such as Vintage Van Gogh (aged a minimum of six months to create a golden body and rich flavour with undertones of caramel and coffee), to the Van Gogh Gouda (mild, sweet and mellow, nothing like the artist), and finally, the Van Gogh Edam, inspired by the swirling images of Van Gogh oil paintings melding with partially-skimmed milk to produce a sweet creamy flavour balanced by salty notes. Have we whetted your appetite? Read on for the main course of Van Gogh news. As we’ve often noted on this site, Impressionism was a movement that not only altered the course of art, but spawned many new movements after it. While most of the impressionist masterpieces are generally oil on canvas works, it is worth remembering that about 40 per cent of artwork displayed at the initially impressionist exhibitions were actually drawings, paintings and pastels on... Read more

Kirk Douglas, Lust for Life and new Van Gogh death theory


Oct 18 2011 10:25AM | by Staff Editor

For our readers who were not born prior to 1956, and we suspect there may be a fair few of you, we’d like to recommend what we consider basic viewing for any Van Gogh fan and general supporter of the cinematic arts: Lust for Life, available on the near obsolete [VHS] format (maybe there’s a DVD version floating around somewhere). The movie is a Van Gogh biopic starring Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch), who, besides generally being a grossly talented actor, is also regarded as the world’s oldest living celebrity blogger at age 95, reaching his fans, stalkers and enemies via his myspace account. Like Van Gogh, he displays a lust for life not commonly found. Why is this biopic still better than many that have come after it, even with technical innovations? Quite simply, Douglas plus beard = scary resemblance to Van Gogh, as shown in his own self portraits. That’s always important. Secondly, Douglas has seemingly read and absorbed every page of Irving Stone’s biographical novel about Vincent Van Gogh, on which the movie is based. He’s overly sensitive. He’s rejected. And he’s depressed. All these emotions are present in the very first scene when you meet Douglas/Van... Read more

Van Gogh painting to be auctioned, new film too


Oct 02 2011 12:27PM | by Staff Editor

The passing of Liz Taylor earlier this year has resulted in a much rated Van Gogh painting being released for auction. Christie’s auction house announced last week that the upcoming auction of Taylor’s estate in December will feature Van Gogh’s beautiful Vue de l'Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy (View of the Asylum and Chapel at Saint-Remy). The Dutch artist completed the landscape oil painting in 1889; it was given to Taylor as a gift from her father in 1963 (her father was an art dealer). Christie’s estimates the painting will sell for about $11 million. The Van Gogh painting also has an interesting past – a U.S. federal Appeals Court only ruled it was owned by Taylor in 2007 after a law suit from heirs of its former owner. The Van Gogh painting was claimed by lawyer Andrew Orkin of Hamilton and three cousins who said the artwork belonged to their great grandmother, Margarete Mauthner, a German Jew who escaped to South Africa during the World War II years. The foursome initially filed the suit in 2004, but was rejected by a lower court. The Appeals Court judge upheld the previous ruling in 2005. According to a court... Read more

Van Gogh oil painting slashers redux


Sep 18 2011 07:47PM | by Staff Editor

It seems Van Gogh has been popular with the slashers. The Dutch artist himself was infamous for slashing his ear – after an alleged breakup with his prostitute friend/lover (or perhaps it was a swordfight with Gauguin, as a new theory proposes). Whatever the reason, Van Gogh oil paintings have a history of attracting people with sharp implement in hand, ready to do the canvas damage. Why? Do we think it is the psychedelic-like effects of his oil paintings? Let’s look again at one of the earliest cases – when a Van Gogh painting was slashed back in 1978. More than 30 years ago another Dutch artist, recently discharged from a mental hospital, walked up to a Van Gogh self portrait and slashed it from corner to corner. The police never named the suspect due to privacy laws, but he did quite a thorough job. According to news archives on the internet, the attacker calmly walked up to the Van Gogh oil painting Self Portrait in Grey Hat and cut two, long diagonal gashes into the canvas. The Van Gogh painting was from his Paris period, measuring 17 by 15 inches and completed in 1887. It shows Van Gogh wearing... Read more

Van Gogh – on yellows and browning


Sep 04 2011 10:05PM | by Staff Editor

Sometimes we wonder if modern science is taking the fun out of everything artsy. Mystery upon mystery is unravelled on shows like Mythbusters. Theory after theory about Mona Lisa’s smile and the origin of the subject nearly overwhelm the beauty of it (it was a merchant’s wife! No, it was Da Vinci himself, when younger! No, it was Da Vinci’s favourite assistant and alleged lover! No, you’ve got it all wrong, it’s Jesus!). The theories seem endless and many seem pointless. But the modern scientific aspect of chemicals and how they react hold more practical relevance for oil painting appreciators and practitioners. And the news about some Van Gogh paintings is a little scary. The pigment in question is a luminous yellow pigment often used by van Gogh in his most famous paintings. The concern was why the yellow pigment turned brown in some paintings, but not in others. A February 2011 study of chrome yellow, a toxic industrial pigment used by many artists in the late nineteenth century, finally yielded the answers. It revealed that the chrome atoms at the heart of the chemical structure of the pigment can be modified, leading to a discoloration from bright yellow to... Read more

Van Gogh – another day, another mobile and oil painting discovery


Aug 07 2011 10:26PM | by Staff Editor

Another day and it seems Van Gogh continues to be a source of inspiration for thousands around the world. The Dutch-born painter, responsible for famous oil paintings such as Starry Night, now finds himself lending his name (we hope with some financial payoff to his estate) to an Indian mobile manufacturer. What are the connections between the painter and the newest generation Indian mobile phone? Firstly, van Gogh wasn’t your average stable and balanced painter (say, in comparison to Sisley), so immediately one is left wondering if those are qualities you want in a phone. Van Gogh infamously cut off his ear to give to a prostitute (or so the story goes), while his final years were spent in an asylum where he struggled to overcome depression and other mental anxieties. Sadly, he died when he shot himself in the chest. It is safe to say, then, that the makers of the “Micromax X450 Van Gogh” weren’t relying on the biographical details of Van Gogh’s life for positive market product association. What of his paintings, though? There are, of course, literally dozens of famous Van Gogh paintings out there. To pick one and compare it to a phone would be... Read more

Dream of wheat


Jul 24 2011 10:06PM | by Staff Editor

In the old days, people expected paintings to be made of paint. If General Electric has its way, those days will be long over. Trying to maximize the meaning of “green”, the corporate giant has employed an unorthodox technique to reproduce the well-known Van Gogh painting, A Wheatfield, with Cypresses. Ever tried to reproduce a Van Gogh painting using 8000 living plants? If yes, then congratulations, you are just like ANS, the company contracted by GE for the verdant masterpiece. At the National Gallery in London, visitors will come across the massive monument to the gallery’s carbon plan on the Western side. The painting was selected based on its ability to be reproduced effectively utilizing horticulture and design, which is to say it has large, somewhat uniform fields of color. Individual plants of 26 varieties, which were cultivated and placed by hand, were selected based on precise color matching to the original Van Gogh painting. They were also chosen based the ability to be grown sideways. The reproduction sat in three separate modules, vertically, in a nursery until the time came for the journey to Trafalgar Square. The installation flies under the banner, ‘Bringing art to life as never before’.... Read more

Van Gogh’s Starry Night – pork to be reckoned with


Jul 11 2011 11:31AM | by Staff Editor

You just have to love the internet. Not only has it revolutionised business (and this site is evidence of that), it has allowed the manifestation and publication of creativity as never before. An email and photo currently making the rounds is this picturesque porcine painting of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, as bacon. Hosted on the famous DIY website Instructable.com, the step-by-step process shows you how to create the Starry Night for breakfast – reinventing just what it means to be an artist! As with all paintings, preparing a bacon Starry Night needs your own version of paintbrushes and paints – read a sharp knife, cookie sheet, cutting board, rulers, and of course, packs of pork and turkey bacon. We’re not going to take you through the whole process, but we take our hat off to the creator, CopperTwist – perhaps he or she will come up with more Impressionist bacon masterpieces in the future! The feat is all that much more interesting, and ironic, because Van Gogh was a reputed vegetarian. According to many personal accounts from his life, the artist refused to eat meat and would only do so under great coercion – and this was when he was... Read more

Van Gogh Biography Subject of a Play


May 24 2011 11:13AM | by Staff Editor

The life of Vincent van Gogh has always provided fertile inspiration for writers. The blending of art, madness, despair and genius is hard to find elsewhere, and the letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo provide an amazing amount of detail that can be mined for use in books and plays. Indiana State University decided to highlight the van Gogh biography in a whole new way, by combining paintings by van Gogh with a contemporary music score. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands composed the opera "Vincent" with a libretto by J.D. McClatchy. The opera was commissioned as part of the 100th anniversary of Indiana State University's Jacobs School of Music, but the hope is that the opera will be picked up and reproduced on a larger stage, with professional actors and singers. Rands and McClatchy have stated that they weren't interested in telling a literal, linear story of the biography of Vincent van Gogh. We've all seen those plays, depicting Vincent covered in paint in his studio, or raving in the street and holding his own mutilated ear in his hands. Instead, the authors worked to portray the inner life of Vincent van Gogh: How he might have... Read more

Vincent van Gogh Under the Influence of Absinthe


May 03 2011 08:51AM | by Staff Editor

Paintings by Vincent van Gogh are swirling and hypnotic. Blues and greens dominate the color palette choices, with yellows and oranges working as highlight colors. While some people believe these choices can be attributed to van Gogh's simple love of these colors and how well they go together, others believe these color choices proclaim the artist's love of absinthe. Absinthe is an alcohol made, in part, of wormwood. It is typically bright green in color coming straight out of the bottle, but is usually served over blocks of sugar and turns a creamy white in the glass. In the 1800s, people believed absinthe could inspire creativity and a new way of looking at the world, and it became a popular drink for artists and writers. Many artists and writers are known to have drunk absinthe, including Edgar Allen Poe, Pablo Picasso and Charles Baudelaire. Vincent van Gogh is possibly the most famous artist to partake of absinthe, however. This may be, in part, because he painted Still Life with Absinthe along with other images of patrons in bars, slumped over empty glasses of absinthe. Many of his paintings contain the green and blue tones found in absinthe. Vincent van Gogh... Read more

Vincent van Gogh, Ears and the Truth


Apr 26 2011 09:58AM | by Staff Editor

Try this trick at your next party: Ask each of your friends to name two things they know about Vincent van Gogh. Chances are, at least half of your friends will know about Starry Night by van Gogh. A few may know about the van Gogh sunflowers series. But nearly all of them will likely tell you that van Gogh cut off his own ear over a love affair with a prostitute. This has been the accepted story line for many, many years. Oftentimes, this is referenced in art history books when students are learning about the many van Gogh self-portraits he painted with a bandaged ear. Historians disagree with this conventional story, however. In fact, many historians suggest the truth about van Gogh's ear is much harder to come by. In May of 2009, two German researchers claimed that van Gogh's ear was actually cut off by the painter Paul Gauguin, and the two artists agreed to keep quiet about the incident. The researchers base this theory on police records from the time, as well as letters written by van Gogh. Gauguin and van Gogh had a tumultuous relationship, and fought frequently while they lived together in 1888 in... Read more

The Transformation of van Gogh to van Goat


Jan 24 2011 11:12PM | by Staff Editor

Parents of children younger than 5 are likely familiar with the Disney "Baby Einstein" series, which is designed to introduce small children to art. The new series contains a new character, Vincent Van Goat, who appears in the packaging as a puppet along with his friends Bard the Dragon and Coco the Dancing Cockatoo. This got us to wondering: Why link Vincent van Gogh with children? And how would the painter have felt about being turned into a puppet, used to entertain children? On the one hand, it makes sense to introduce van Gogh paintings to young children. Many paintings by Vincent van Gogh contain wild and bright colors that kids find incredibly appealing. The van Gogh sunflowers, for example, contain vibrant yellow, red and orange hues. Multiple studies have confirmed that young children respond enthusiastically to these colors, and report feeling happy and calm when yellows and oranges surround them. "Starry Night," by van Gogh may contain images and iconography that would be difficult for small children to fully grasp, but they may be able to respond to the color choices on an emotional level. On the other hand, Vincent van Gogh had a personality that wasn't quite suitable... Read more