Posthumously, Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Willem van Gogh (Dutch: 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) has risen to prominence as a pivotal role in the development of Western art. He produced roughly 2,100 works of art over a decade, most of which date from his final two years. They range from landscapes to still lifes to portraits to self-portraits, and they all have a foundational quality: the use of vivid colors and dramatic, impulsive, expressive brushwork that helped lay the groundwork for modern art.
He was not financially successful, and at the age 37, he took his own life due to the burden of depression and poverty. Van Gogh was a member of a middle-to-upper-class family. Even as a little boy, he always took life seriously and was quite reserved and introspective. He started drawing at a young age and later worked as an art dealer, frequently moving around the country for employment. However, he got sad after being relocated to London. His spiritual journey led him to serve as a missionary for the Protestant church in southern Belgium.
Where To See Van Gogh Paintings Around The World
Few names are more recognized in the art world than Vincent Van Gogh. The colorful, experimental style of this Dutch post-impressionist, coupled with the romanticization of his tragic life (he died before his work was widely appreciated), has ensured the artist’s enduring fame.
A new traveling multi-sensory exhibition of his work has led to a spike in interest in the 19th-century artist, but when it comes to understanding Van Gogh’s life and legacy, there is so much more to see. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places to see Van Gogh’s work, from his earliest attempts to his final, unhappy days, in hopes of helping art lovers plan their next trip to the Netherlands.
1. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo
Van Gogh did not begin painting until he was 28 years old, after spending several years as an art dealer (and seriously toying with the thought of becoming a monk). The Kröller-Müller Museum is a modern glass building in a park-like setting near the Dutch village of Otterlo, and it houses some of the artist’s earlier works. One of three paintings vying for the honor of being Van Gogh’s oldest-known work is Still Life with Yellow Straw Hat, which depicts various objects on a desk and likely dates to late 1881.
Even earlier sketches are also on exhibit; they primarily depict portraits of workers from the village of Etten, where Van Gogh moved back home with his parents to study art seriously (against their disapproval). The Kröller-Müller Museum shows the second-largest Van Gogh collection in the world, including many other significant works by the artist throughout his entire career, with Café Terrace at Night serving as the collection’s undisputed centerpiece. Van Gogh’s first known use of a starry background, which he would return to in many of his most famous works, may be seen in his painting of diners outside a coffee shop in Arles, France.
2. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is home to the world’s most extensive collection of Van Gogh art. The Potato Eaters, widely regarded as the Dutchman’s first masterwork, can also be found here. This 1885 picture continues Van Gogh’s focus on presenting the bleak reality of peasant life; it depicts five farm laborers eating together in a dimly lit scenario, in stark contrast to the artist’s later works, which are admired for their use of brilliant colors.
The museum is the unofficial center of Van Gogh’s scholarship. It features numerous significant works by the artist, such as The Yellow House, which depicts the building where Van Gogh lived and worked in Arles, and Almond Blossoms, which Van Gogh gave to his brother Theo (who provided him with financial support throughout his career) after the birth of his son.
3. Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Van Gogh moved to the sleepy French town of Arles in 1888 after he spent time in the bustling cities of Nuenen, Antwerp, and Paris without producing much art of note. The artist’s creative energy was rejuvenated by the move to Paris, and today many of his most cherished works from this productive period may be found hanging in the vast halls of the Musée d’Orsay.
Two of the most famous paintings based on the city of Arles can be found in the Left Bank museum: the haunting panorama Starry Night Over the Rhone and a miniature replica of Bedroom in Arles (the original hangs in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam). The Portrait of Dr. Gachet, painted later in his life, is another prized piece from the museum’s collection. This is a second iteration of the picture; the original sold for $82.5 million in 1990 and holds the record for most ever paid for a piece of art. As soon as the painting was sold, it vanished from public records, and nobody knows where it is now.
4. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
The Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, is now home to one of Van Gogh’s most cherished works from his period in Arles. The patrons of an all-night Arles bar are splayed across tables in The Night Café, while the bar’s proprietor stands by himself by an empty billiards table in the painting’s focal point. Van Gogh said to his brother, “One can ruin oneself” in such a setting, and the jarring colors and heavy brushstrokes of this painting capture the raw emotions connected with that prospect.
After staying up for three nights to finish it, Van Gogh offered the owner of the café one of his most famous paintings as payment for his bill. In Arles, the artist also gifted Portrait of Doctor Félix Rey to his sitter upon its completion. However, the doctor reportedly did not care for the painting and recycled it for use in fixing up a hen house. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow is now displaying it, estimated to be valued at more than $50 million.
5. National Gallery, London
Near the end of his stay in Arles in 1888, Van Gogh returned to his early still life days by working on the second of his famous sunflower series. Sunflowers Fourth Version, one of the most well-known pieces in the series, is displayed prominently in the National Gallery in London. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Sompo Museum of Art in Tokyo, and the Neue Pinakothek in Munich also feature pieces from the collection.
Van Gogh’s Chair, another still life by the artist from the same year, displays the artist sitting on a plain wooden chair. Both paintings can be seen at the same London gallery. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam also displays Paul Gauguin’s Armchair, an ethereal companion piece depicting the pew of the artist’s long-time friend (Gaugin was living with Van Gogh in Arles at this time).
Critics have speculated that the complementary colors and different styles of the chairs (Van Gogh’s basic, Gauguin’s elaborate) represent the highly stormy relationship between the duo and have made much ado about the symbolism in the two works.
6. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel
After a year in Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, Van Gogh relocated to the Paris suburb of Auvers in 1890, where he would spend his final year. After first relocating to Auvers to receive treatment with homeopath Paul Gachet, Van Gogh later wrote to his brother that he now considered Gachet “iller than I am.”
While living in Auvers, the artist produced several landscape works, including The Church at Auvers (now in the Musée d’Orsay, alongside the aforementioned second portrait of Gachet), Tree Roots (now in the Van Gogh Museum), and the (probably unfinished) Farms near Auvers (now in the National Gallery, London).
Daubigny’s Garden, painted in the summer of 1890 and depicting the enclosed garden of the house of Charles-François Daubigny in Auvers, an artist whom Van Gogh admired throughout his life, is widely accepted as the artist’s last completed work. However, its exact location is up for debate. One edition hangs in the Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, while another hangs in the Hiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima, and a smaller study is on display.
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