Musement takes a look at eight of the Dutch artist’s most famous paintings and where to find them.
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was a misunderstood genius. As an artist, he had a tumultuous life marked by mental illness and only managed to sell one painting. The great expressive power of his extensive work, more than 900 pictures painted during a ten-year period, was recognized after his death. So much so that the Dutch painter, a pioneer of expressionism, is considered one of the most transcendental figures in art history. The largest collection of his work can be found in his native Holland, especially in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, although his paintings are also displayed in major cities like Paris, London, and New York. Here’s a look at eight of his most emblematic.
1. “The Sunflowers”, 1888
This oil painting is one of Van Gogh’s most representative works. It’s not in vain that you have seen it reproduced in countless media: plates, posters, stationery, etc. “The Sunflowers”, belonging to a series of paintings on the same subject, arose after the painter collected them from a field in Provence and painted them as they withered. It is said that the characteristic yellow tone of the petals was achieved after the caffeine addict suffered visual hallucinations caused by coffee consumption. Van Gogh was a true caffeine addict! National Gallery, London.
2. “Starry Night”, 1889
If you’ve studied art, you most likely know that Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is an icon of the Post-Impressionist style. It represents the night view from the window of the sanatorium in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where the artist stayed during the last stage of his life. Van Gogh painted the work during the day and also used it to channel his state of mind after one of his schizophrenia attacks a little more than a year before he committed suicide. Where: MoMA, New York
3. “The Room of Arles”, 1888
During his time in Arles, Van Gogh stayed in this room that he painted. With it, the artist wanted to represent the simplicity and tranquility of his bedroom through a palette of pale colors, which are also a tribute to the sobriety of Japan, whose artwork inspired Van Gogh. It is said that because of his epilepsy, he saw the distorted colors, which would explain the abundance of yellows and greens in this work. It is also said that Van Gogh painted this under the influence of a plant called digitalis purpurea that helped him maintain his pulse. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Other versions can be found at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Orsay Museum in Paris.
4. “Café Terrace at Night”, 1988
Another oil painting from his stay in Arles was “Café Terrace at Night”, in which Van Gogh depicted La Terrasse café in the Place du Forum, which later became Café Van Gogh. Warm colors, a symbol of the painter’s optimism at having arrived in the south of France in search of calm and inspiration, dominate the painting and are juxtaposed with houses in the shade and a star-studded sky.Kröller-Müller Museum, Arnhem
5. “Self-Portrait with Straw Hat”, 1887
Van Gogh painted more than 30 self-portraits and his “Self-Portrait with Straw Hat” is known for its markedly yellow tones and a light typical of Impressionism. He created this self-portrait when he was feeling overwhelmed in Paris. Drunk in a frenetic city like the French capital, he needed to escape to a quiet place (which would be Arles, thanks to the influence of Gauguin), hence he presents himself with a straw hat and a look that conveys the oppression that he wants to end. Detroit Institute of Arts
6. “The Potato Eaters”, 1885
As Van Gogh explained in a letter to his brother Théo, he wanted to portray real peasants eating the potatoes they had picked and grown themselves to depict the hardship of country life. He painted this bleak portrayal of five humble peasants about to have dinner in the Dutch town of Nuenen. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
7. “Van Gogh’s Chair”, 1888
Van Gogh’s chair goes hand in hand with Gauguin’s chair, both having been created during their stay in the Yellow House in Arles. It was after arguing with him that Van Gogh cut his ear lobe and Gauguin returned to Paris. Then the Dutchman decided to represent the differences between the two by painting the two chairs: Vincent’s chair, made from simple straw with a pipe and a roll of tobacco on top, captures his sadness through strong brushstrokes in shades of yellow and blue. National Gallery, London
8. “The Siesta”, 1890
Inspired by Millet’s “La meridienne”, Van Gogh painted this The Siesta at the Saint-Rémy sanatorium. At a time when he had no themes of his own, he reinterpreted Millet’s work, reinventing a scene of rest in the countryside, implementing his characteristic colors and brushstrokes while remaining faithful to the original composition. D’Orsay Museum, Paris