The famous painting by van gogh: Starry Night

Interesting, lesser known facts about Van Gogh

Written by: Art on Words



Time to read 6 min

Some things you might not know - yet- about the Dutch master

Vincent van Gogh, with his iconic swirls of color and emotionally charged brushstrokes, stands as one of the art world's most recognizable figures. His sunflowers, starry nights, and tortured self-portraits have adorned countless museum walls and art history textbooks. However, beneath the vivid hues and famed ear incident lies a plethora of lesser-known tales and tidbits about this enigmatic artist. Delving beyond the mainstream narrative reveals a Van Gogh teeming with quirks, passions, and surprises. As we peel back the layers of popular anecdotes, we uncover a realm rife with uncharted stories, each adding a new dimension to our understanding of this Dutch maestro. Let's embark on a journey into the hidden corners of Van Gogh's life and artistry.

Discovering the Untold Stories Behind the Legend

Unusual colour perception

Vincent van Gogh's art is synonymous with bold colors and intense emotion. However, one of the most intriguing facets of his work is his unconventional use of color. While most artists of his time stuck to faithful reproductions of their subjects, Van Gogh's canvases burst with hues that were often far from realistic.

This idiosyncratic color perception wasn't just a stylistic choice; there's evidence suggesting it may have been a physiological one. Some theories propose that van Gogh might have had a form of color blindness, known as xanthopsia, where the world takes on a yellowish hue. This condition can arise from several factors, including medicinal side-effects, and considering Van Gogh's known health issues and treatments, it's a plausible explanation.

His painting "The Night Café" is a testament to his unique perception. Here, he uses vivid reds and greens to depict a scene that's both haunting and atmospheric. Van Gogh himself described the piece as expressing "terrible human passions" using colors "to express the powers of darkness."

In the realm of art, Van Gogh's unusual color perception isn't just a footnote but a defining element. It challenges our understanding of reality and reminds us that beauty often lies in seeing the world differently.

An oil painting by Dutch Master Van Gogh: The Night Cafe

Starry Night: A Celestial Symphony

Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night" is more than just a painting; it's an exploration, a dream, and a scientific marvel. When one gazes upon the swirling blues and glowing yellows, there's an undeniable pull—a gravitational force that draws the viewer into a cosmic dance.

The night sky depicted in this masterpiece isn't just a product of van Gogh's vivid imagination, but a keen observation of the universe's beauty and mystery. The spiraling patterns he painted bear a remarkable similarity to the spiral arms of galaxies, something that wasn't commonly known during his time. It makes one wonder about the depth of van Gogh's astronomical insights and how far ahead of his time he truly was.

The possible nod to the Great Comet of 1882 further showcases van Gogh's connection to the universe's events. Comets have always been seen as omens or messengers from the heavens, and for an artist as introspective as van Gogh, the appearance of such a celestial body might have held deep personal significance.

Furthermore, the cypress tree that shoots up towards the sky in the painting can be interpreted as a bridge between the earth and the cosmos—a symbol of mankind's eternal quest to understand the universe.

In essence, "Starry Night" isn't just a painting but a testament to van Gogh's profound relationship with the night sky. It serves as a reminder that art and science, emotion and observation, are not separate realms but beautifully intertwined facets of human experience.

An oil painting by Dutch Master Van Gogh: The Starry Night

Echoes of Japan in Europe: Van Gogh's Eastern Fascination

Vincent van Gogh's artistic journey is a tapestry woven with diverse influences, but one of the most profound of these was undoubtedly his love for Japanese art. While many aficionados appreciate the evident Japanese inspiration in some of his works, few delve into the depth of this obsession that marked what could be termed his "Japanese period."

Van Gogh wasn't merely a passive admirer of ukiyo-e prints; he was an avid collector, gathering hundreds of these intricate artworks. They became not only a source of pleasure but also of study. He dissected their compositions, color palettes, and themes, often integrating these elements into his own creations.

However, this fascination wasn't limited to canvases. Van Gogh harbored a dream, which now might seem audacious to many: to relocate to Japan and immerse himself in its culture and landscapes. While this aspiration never materialized, it didn't deter him from seeking a semblance of the Japanese life he yearned for. He chose the South of France as his canvas, dubbing it the "equivalent of Japan," and endeavored to recreate a slice of Eastern life there.

This period of van Gogh's life bore fruit in enchanting works like "Almond Blossoms." In this painting, the ethereal blue background and delicate blossoms reaching out into the vast sky echo Japanese spring imagery, showcasing how seamlessly van Gogh merged European techniques with Japanese sensibilities. It's a testament to his adaptability and the universality of art, transcending geographical boundaries.

An oil painting by Dutch Master Van Gogh: Almond Blossoms

Van Gogh's Financial Journey: From Humble Beginnings to Multi-Million Dollar Sales

Vincent van Gogh, renowned for his profound artistry and emotional intensity, is a name that reverberates through the annals of art history. Yet, there's a widely believed narrative that during his lifetime, he tasted commercial success from the sale of merely one painting. How accurate is this claim?

Central to this narrative is 'The Red Vineyard,' a captivating piece depicting laborers immersed in their work in a vineyard, drenched in a warm, golden light. This artwork is recognized as van Gogh's only verified commercial sale during his lifetime, securing a sum of 400 francs just months before his tragic end. Though this solitary sale might paint a picture of subdued appreciation for his work, one should note the possibility of unrecorded private trades or sales by the artist.

The true valuation of van Gogh's genius became evident long after his passing. In a historic auction event, his evocative piece 'Skeleton with Burning Cigarette' became a sensation in the art world. The artist's interpretation of death, adorned with a quirky cigarette, fetched an astronomical price, reflecting the undying appeal of his unique vision. This contrast between van Gogh's initial modest recognition and his later monumental acclaim highlights the unpredictable nature of art valuation and the enduring magic of his craft.

An oil painting by Dutch Master Van Gogh: The Red Vineyard

Sunflowers: a forgotten series

Vincent van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' is often hailed as one of the pinnacle achievements in the realm of art. This series, with its radiant hues and bold brushstrokes, has captured the hearts and minds of art aficionados worldwide. However, the journey to these iconic blossoms has its roots in lesser-known works that deserve their spotlight.

Before the renowned Arles series came into existence, van Gogh had already dabbled in capturing the essence of sunflowers during his time in Paris. These preliminary sets were markedly different in tone and mood. Dominated by earthy browns and muted yellows, they exuded a sense of melancholy and introspection, perhaps mirroring van Gogh's personal struggles and his quest for artistic identity amidst the bustling Parisian art scene.

The progression from these darker, introspective Parisian sunflowers to the vivid, almost electrifying Arles series is not just a testament to van Gogh's evolving artistic style but also a reflection of his inner transformation. The move to Arles marked a period of heightened creativity and optimism for the artist, and this shift in mindset manifested brilliantly on canvas.

While the Arles sunflowers remain the most celebrated, recognizing the significance of the preceding Paris series offers a deeper understanding of van Gogh's artistic journey. They remind us that even in shadows, there's a promise of the luminous brilliance to come.

An oil painting by Dutch Master Van Gogh: The Sunflowers

Van Gogh's Intimate Gaze: The Tale of Self-Portraits

Vincent van Gogh, an artist whose name is synonymous with Post-Impressionist brilliance, left behind a trail of self-portraits that provide an intimate window into his tumultuous life and evolving psyche. Creating over 40 self-representations in a span of just a few years, van Gogh's self-portraits are more than mere artistic exercises; they are poignant chronicles of a man in constant search of identity.

From the somber hues of his early works, reflecting the weight of his struggles, to the vibrant and passionate reds and blues of his later pieces, each portrait tells a unique story. One can witness the transitions of his life - the challenges he faced, his battles with mental health, and the intensity of his emotions - all laid bare on canvas.

These self-portraits, with their varying expressions and moods, also showcase van Gogh's unparalleled skill in capturing human emotion and his bold experimentation with color and technique. As we gaze into the eyes of the artist across these canvases, we are invited into a deeply personal narrative, making van Gogh's self-portraits some of the most compelling pieces in art history.

An oil painting by Dutch Master Van Gogh: Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear

Unveiling the Layers: Beyond the Obvious in Van Gogh's Legacy

Vincent van Gogh's legacy is vast and multi-dimensional. While his sun-dappled landscapes and emotive portraits remain at the forefront, diving into the less-traversed alleys of his life presents a richer, more nuanced portrait of the artist. Whether it's his nuanced embrace of Japanese techniques or the mysteries of his preparatory works, van Gogh's canvas, both literal and metaphorical, beckons us to look closer and discover more.