“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together” - Vincent Van Gogh.
Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch post-impressionist painter, is now an extremely well-known artist who had a major influence on western art. Despite his popularity, it wasn’t until after his death did Van Gogh gain recognition and appreciation for his art.
On March 30, 1853, Vincent Van Gogh was born to Protestant minister Theodorus Van Gogh and his wife Anna Carbentus. Throughout his childhood, Van Gogh did not show much interest or talent for visual art and was unhappy to be at a boarding school to receive his elementary education. Halfway through his second academic year at a secondary school in Tilburg, he quit school and never returned. At the young age of 16, he started working as a trainee at the international art dealer Goupil & Cie.
Until the age of 27, Vincent Van Gogh did not find a direction in life; he had tried multiple jobs from being an art dealer to a schoolmaster to a lay preacher and a bookseller. Throughout this time of his life, Van Gogh would send letters to his younger brother Theo, and these often included little sketches. This leads to a turning point in his life, as Theo encouraged him to focus more on his drawing, convincing Van Gogh that he could serve God as an artist, which resulted in him moving to Brussels in 1880 where he began to work on his technique and met other artists.
After moving around and developing his skill and techniques, Van Gogh started working on his first masterpiece The Potato Eaters.
It was after his father’s death in 1885, when he moved into his studio and created this painting. It depicts a group of peasants sitting around a dish of potatoes, who happen to have exaggerated features; Van Gogh wanted to show the nature of hardworking people through the rough and uneven facial features. The dull and dark palette created a depressing atmosphere, giving the room the intended drab and dark ambiance.
Several years later, Vincent Van Gogh spent a year in a mental hospital in the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Despite his mental state, he still produced several artworks during his time in the hospital including the famous Starry Night.
It is a mid-scale, oil-on-canvas painting, dominated by a moon and star-filled night sky. The intense, mesmerizing swirling patterns that Van Gogh used for the sky make it appear like waves or a gust of wind and flows throughout the painting. One of the biggest points of interest about this painting is that it came from Van Gogh’s imagination and is a remarkable break from his regular work.
Years after his death in 1890, his fame grew and there were calls for his collection to be placed in a dedicated museum. In 1962 the State of the Netherlands undertook the task to build the Van Gogh museum and ensure that the collection is accessible to everyone. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands opened the museum in 1973, and receives, today, 2 million people every year. Despite his difficult life and little support, Vincent Van Gogh is now a world-renowned artist and his work is appreciated by millions through museums and various immersive exhibitions across the globe.
Artsight. "The Potato Eaters: Why This Painting Will Make You Feel Sad"Artsapien, 2021, https://artsapien.com/2021/01/the-potato-eaters/
"Vincent's Life, 1853-1890" Van Gogh Museum, https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/art-and-stories/vincents-life-1853-1890
"The Starry Night" MomaLearning, https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/vincent-van-gogh-the-starry-night-1889/
"Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night" The Van Gogh Gallery, https://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/starry-night.html