Self-portrait with grey felt hat (September 1887 - October 1887) by Vincent van GoghVan Gogh Museum
Tragically, Vincent van Gogh never found success while he was alive; but, since his death in 1890, his renown grows larger every passing year. Today, he is widely acknowledged as one of the most brilliant, yet troubled, artists in the history of modern art.
His tragic life may be as well-known as his artwork. He was in and out of mental hospitals, and only one of his paintings sold in his lifetime. Despite his early death at 37 years old, van Gogh produced over 850 oil paintings and 1,500 prints - that’s one every 36 hours! Today, his work is in high demand: several of his pieces have sold for over 30 million dollars and 13 of his paintings have been stolen and later recovered. His work, both vast and varied in its significance, is shown in galleries and admired by people across the world.
The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van GoghMoMA The Museum of Modern Art
New York, MoMA
Perhaps Van Gogh’s most famous masterpiece, The Starry Night, is on view at the MoMA, in New York City. But, despite its fame, many may not know that van Gogh produced it while staying at a mental asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France.
Eugène Boch (1888) by Vincent van GoghMusée d’Orsay, Paris
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
This portrait of the artist Eugène Boch is one of several van Goghs’ shown at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. When van Gogh met Boch, he wrote to his brother, Théo, that he was struck by Boch’s "distinctive face, like a razor blade, and his green eyes," according to the Musée d’Orsay.
Corn Harvest in Provence (1888) by Vincent Van GoghThe Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Jerusalem, The Israel Museum
Corn Harvest in Provence, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, is one of Van Gogh’s many landscapes of quaint, idyllic scenes in the French countryside. The use of bold brushstrokes is a classic Van Gogh technique.
Windmills on Montmartre (1886) by Vincent van GOGHArtizon Museum, Ishibashi Foundation
Tokyo, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation
The Bridgestone Museum of Art in Tokyo has a collection of several different prominent modern artists, including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. The windmill depicted in this landscape, Le Moulin de Blute-Fin, still stands today.
Landscape from Saint-Rémy (1889) by Vincent van GoghNy Carlsberg Glyptotek
Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Like The Starry Night, van Gogh painted this landscape while staying in a mental asylum. If incredibly painful for him personally, the time he spent at Saint-Rémy proved to be one the most fruitful years of his career – he painted several of his most famous, mesmerizing landscapes within the walls of his room, most of which were symbolic of the turbulent times he was facing. The contrasts of blurred lightness and darkness serving as interpretations as both the view from his window and his perspective at the time.
Poplars near Nuenen (1885) by Vincent van GoghMuseum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Rotterdam, Museum Bojimans Van Beuningen
Van Gogh was experimenting with Impressionist techniques when he completed this landscape, which currently hangs in Rotterdam. This particular painting uses brighter colors than his work was generally accustomed to at that time. The blueness that peeks out from the trees and the highlights of the tree foliage is a clear example of the artists transition into a new style of painting. In the Netherlands, his work was more Realist and used a gloomy color palette. In France, under the influence of the Impressionists, he brought brighter colors into his work. Van Gogh started Poplars near Neunen in the Netherlands and finished it in France, so you can see characteristics of both periods in the painting.
Head of a peasant (1884) by Vincent van GoghArt Gallery of New South Wales
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales
There are lots of amazing Impressionist-era paintings hanging at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where this portrait currently lives. Head of a Peasant is one of forty peasants’ portraits Van Gogh completed in Neunen. The series’ portraits share similar qualities: dark, dreary colors and a bleak atmosphere. Judging from the tone of this series, it seems that Van Gogh may have sympathized with the poor conditions of peasant workers.
"Les Vessenots" in Auvers (1890) by Vincent van GoghMuseo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is one of Spain’s premiere art museums, and their collection contains examples from Van Gogh’s many different artistic phases. Les Vessenots in Auvers is a classic example of the kind of work he made in later life. Shortly before he died, he produced many beautiful outdoor landscapes such as this one.
White cottages at Saintes-Maries (1888) by Vincent van GoghKunsthaus Zürich
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich
This little, lesser-known painting is a key touchstone in Van Gogh’s collective works up until 1888, when it was painted. It’s the first painting where he uses his famous extreme contrasts and bold colors which would soon become hallmarks of his work. This artwork shows him moving away from Realism and toward Expressionism – a movement of which he would contribute greatly in establishing. This progressive change was solidified during a stay in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer which marked the beginning of his fascination with contrasting bright colors schemes.
The Schoolboy (The Postman´s Son – Gamin au Képi) (1888) by Vincent van GoghMASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand
Sao Paulo, MASP - Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand
Established in 1947, MASP is Brazil’s first modern art museum. In addition to holding modern art from Brazil itself, the museum also carries a huge range of European works, including this Van Gogh portrait of a schoolboy. The painting has many of Van Gogh’s signature touches and shows his love of loud, vibrant colors and striking contrasts mixed with a sense of imagination where models never stayed completely true to form. This particular painting is part of a series of which the entire Roulin Family agreed to sit for him, an opportunity Van Gogh quickly grasped.
The potato eaters (April 1885 - May 1885) by Vincent van GoghVan Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum
Being a Dutch painter, it makes sense that the largest collection of Van Gogh artworks resides in Amsterdam. Oil paintings and drawings from every one of his different periods are on view here. You can see The Potato Eaters, from his Neunen phase, named after his time spent in the Netherlands which saw a darker, more sullen canvas of colors.
Courtesan: after Eisen (October 1887 - November 1887) by Vincent van GoghVan Gogh Museum
Another such work worth mentioning which can be seen at the museum is the Courtesan: After Eisen, from his “Japonisme” phase. The second half of the 19th century saw an increased interest in Japanese art in the west. Though this influence did not have a strong following in the Netherlands, it was instead all the rage among Parisians, with Van Gogh being no exception. His work was heavily influenced by Japanese printmaking and considered them masterpieces of the East, very much mirroring their style.
The Bedroom (October 1888) by Vincent van GoghVan Gogh Museum
The ever famous The Bedroom and Sunflowers, is also on display in the Van Gogh Museum and is from his Arles phase, a term coined after his stay in Arles France known for its direct sunlight and picture-perfect landscapes. In a letter to his brother Theo on October 16, 1888, Van Gogh describes his inspiration of the painting, writing, “…I had a new idea in my head and here is the sketch of it. […] This time it's just simply my bedroom, only here color is to do everything, and giving by its simplification a grander style to things, is to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In a word, looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination.”
Zelfportret (1887) by Gogh, Vincent vanRijksmuseum
Van Gogh was multifaceted as a painter and a historical figure. As you can see, there is more to the artist than The Starry Night, and you don’t have to be just in New York or Paris to see one of his masterpieces.
Explore more Van Gogh.