Table of contents
- 1. Sorrow, 1882
- 2. The Potato Eaters, 1885
- 3. Bedroom in Arles, 1888
- 4. Sunflowers, 1888
- 5. Starry Night Over The Rhône, 1888
- 6. Café Terrace at Night, 1888
- 7. The Starry Night, 1889
- 8. Irises, 1889
- 9. Self Portrait with Bandaged Ears, 1889
- 10. Almond Blossoms (1890)
- 11. Wheatfield with Crows, 1890
- 12. Tree Roots, 1890
- Vincent, This World Was Never Meant For You
- Frequently Asked Questions
Coffee, cigarettes, and bread – almost sounding a lot like the next album by Cigarettes After Sex is in fact something that this artist survived on.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), synonymously known as the tortured artist, stands as one of the most renowned artists of post-Impressionism.
Born the eldest to a Dutch Reformed Minister, Van Gogh and his paintings have brought a new dawn to the history of art.
Even though he was a Dutch native, he spent most of his life in France and rose to fame as one of the famous French artists.
Art dealer turned self-taught artist, he has nearly 900 paintings to his name and more than 1,100 works on paper.
Although most of his art was recognized after his death, with his striking colors and contoured art, Vincent Van Gogh remains a name that cannot be contained in a piece of blog.
Without further ado, I would like to invite you to delve with me into the world of master artworks and famous Van Gogh paintings.
These 12 Vincent Van Gogh Famous Paintings are going to alter your perspective of life.
I would like you to accept with open hearts and minds, the story of Van Gogh through his paintings.
1. Sorrow, 1882
In 1882, Van Gogh met a drunken woman, Sien, who had spent most of her life in prostitution and moral misery just to bring her kids up.
Feeling empathetic, Van Gogh gave her shelter and nursed her kids while she served as his muse.
She drank and smoked cigars and Vincent went hungry just to paint her sorrow.
This famous Van Gogh painting depicts her crouching with her withered breasts and pregnant belly. She seems almost hopeless, in her own misery.
Vincent’s clear feelings for Sien were written at the end of the painting which literally translated to “How can there be lonely and abandoned women on earth?”
He went to Mauritius to add to his artistic knowledge and spent hours watching paintings of Rembrandt.
Only when he was slowly coming out from his abasement, he met Sien which made him question religious and social ideas, throwing him back into the darker realms of art.
This was also the point from where Van Gogh started slipping into madness.
First, during Van Gogh’s experience in Borinage and then through Sien, it was becoming almost impossible for Van Gogh to connect with the brighter realms of art.
It was after this event that Van Gogh wandered and came to Drenthe, a lonely impoverished place that will form the base of his mental deterioration and artistic improvement.
“I see drawings and pictures in the poorest of huts and the dirtiest of corners”Vincent van Gogh
2. The Potato Eaters, 1885
This is the only famous Van Gogh painting that has three surviving studies before the final artwork.
It was known that Vincent van Gogh practiced the hands and heads an entire winter before the final rendition and personally considered it to be the best painting.
Yet another painting speaks of his social and moral feelings, not because it captured the poor but because of Van Gogh’s affinity towards the trodden.
His solidarity with them is seen in a picturesque way in the original Van Gogh paintings.
In the Potato Eaters, Van Gogh beautifully paints an everyday chore done by a family of peasants and the solace they find in common food.
The painting strikingly captures the humanity and moral beauty of these hard workers consuming the fruit of their day’s work.
Van Gogh with a lot of thought named the painting The Potato Eaters, making Potatoes a staple of the poor.
They eat under a single light, and although it seems like a familiar time, each individual reflects a thought of their own.
Two of them speak of loneliness and can be assumed mirror to Van Gogh’s own feelings.
The colors – blue, green, and brown – are modestly used and also add to the tonality and situation.
The painting is pure in showing the emotions of hard work, of people who find nourishment in potatoes, and a moment of care after a harsh day.
3. Bedroom in Arles, 1888
Vincent van Gogh’s iconic bedroom painting, Bedroom in Arles is a depiction of his room that gave him comfort and repose.
But what is so significant about the painting?
It is one of Vincent van Gogh’s very few paintings that depict “painting in a painting” structure.
While the entire room speaks of the way he lived and an outward appearance of the same, there is something more to this famous van Gogh painting.
There were three renditions of the painting, and the objects and figures started getting more distorted in each rendition.
This might also be due to the increasing fits of madness that the artist went through, almost making him slowly lose the sense of remembering people.
However, more than anything, Van Gogh intended to focus on the color of the painting.
The dynamic mix of orange, yellow, blue, and red almost make it appear like the painting was made just to experiment with colors.
While the main focus remains on intense orange and red, blue and green are used more as accents.
There is also a strong sense of perspective in the painting, with many rigid lines converging to a point in the middle. However, the perspective was very awkward.
Another bit of the painting was the room’s obscure placement and weird dimensions.
The wall was too far, and the window almost slanting.
It was as if the entire room was slipping into a psychedelic drug.
4. Sunflowers, 1888
Van Gogh’s symbol of happiness, Sunflowers.
This painting is one of the famous paintings of Van Gogh which was created out of excitement to see his inspiration, the famous, Paul Gauguin.
After all, Van Gogh’s sole motive for shifting to Arles was to create a community for artists with Gauguin being his mentor.
It was also evident that sunflowers were Van Gogh’s source of happiness since he always wanted to paint a bunch of sunflowers across his room.
Like the rest of his paintings, Van Gogh painted four variations of Sunflower.
He used his impasto technique very graciously, showing the stages of life of a sunflower kept in an earthen vase.
The thick brushstrokes and different shades of yellow showing the decay made the painting less still life, and more of a life progression painting.
This Van Gogh painting was just like his other weathered paintings, from a young bud to a dead flower.
The painting used a muted color palette even though the sunflowers are vivid yellow in the peak of summer.
He did paint a vibrant version too initially but seems like he wasn’t all that happy with the bright palette.
“In the hope of living in a studio of our own with Gauguin, I’d like to do a decoration for the studio. Nothing but large Sunflowers.”Vincent in his letters.
Although not proven, a lot of art historians believed that Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin shared a homosexual relationship.
They traveled around the city, painted portraits of each other, and had frequent squabbles.
For Gauguin, the paintings of sunflowers resonated with Van Gogh’s personality. It can one of the reasons why Van Gogh painted and gifted a portrait of the Sunflower to Gauguin.
Unfortunately, two days before Christmas and only 9 weeks after Gauguin had arrived, both artists indulged in an ugly fight.
He also threatened him with a razor and ended up cutting off a part of his own left ear.
They never saw each other again, but they continued to write.
5. Starry Night Over The Rhône, 1888
Starry Night Over The Rhône is the first of the three-night study paintings of Vincent van Gogh that gained the most recognition.
Ever since van Gogh arrived at Arles, he was preoccupied with the thought of representing the night skies of the coastal city.
“I need a starry night with cypresses or maybe above a field of ripe wheat”, he wrote to his brother, Theo van Gogh, in a letter.
This famous Van Gogh painting was painted on the banks of a river just a two-minute walk from where he lived.
The circling night sky and the effect of the light will be more evident in the later works of Van Gogh.
Different from other night sky paintings, this one included a figure portraying a couple enchanted by the view, although it did not quite come out like that, it remains a symbol.
An orb of natural lighting surrounds the stars.
Interestingly, this famous painting by Van Gogh was a little inaccurate in the placement of the Big Bear constellation.
But whatever is worth it, the creation of this painting pushed Van Gogh toward a new type of painting style.
Trying to understand the significance of the painting can be your doorway to understanding why the van Gogh painting is still notable.
It was produced when Vincent was looking for religious guidance. The set of Starry Night paintings only came up when he was looking for answers, guidance, or the need to be saved.
If analyzed closely, the Starry Night Over the Rhône reveals that Vincent gave equal importance to every figure he painted.
He did not make dynamic shifts in colors, and there is hardly any distinction between the earth and the sky. The only focus element that brightens the painting is the light reflecting from the stars and the city lights.
The Starry Night paintings are only going to get better from here.
6. Café Terrace at Night, 1888
Café Terrace at Night, a painting by Vincent van Gogh, was the first of his nocturnal paintings.
Interestingly, this painting was not signed by Van Gogh.
The use of starry night as the background was a clear indication for the art historians to conclude the artist of the painting.
Most art historians believed that this painting of Van Gogh was a result of his newfound fascination with religion.
While the motive remained post-impressionistic with the subject in focus, great attention was also given to the night sky.
The painting depicts 12 central figures eating in Café Terrace, which is reminiscent of Jesus and his disciples.
His inclination toward religion showed an evident influence of The Last Supper motif in the painting.
Van Gogh spent most of his time roaming around the café, studying the night sky, and finding the perfect frame to paint it.
It was painted from a Vantage point on the street. Surrounding the terrace was a cobble-stoned street that led to the extent of the border of the painting.
There are also trees and green shrubbery peeking into the composition. The more we move toward the left of the street, we move into darkness.
In this Van Gogh painting, we also see the glow of a light bulb through the sliver of windows.
There has been a use of contrasting colors that clearly distinguish the sky and ground of the composition.
The use of deep yellow and orange toward the lower portion depicts a sense of artificial light.
Thick black lines delineate shapes. The buildings leading into the background also appear to be painted in black, which adds to the depths of the painting.
However, many sources say that Van Gogh never used black in his paintings.
A beginning to Van Gogh’s famous series of night paintings, Café Terrace remains a masterpiece.
7. The Starry Night, 1889
A painting where the optimism comes from the night sky and not the town.
Van Gogh’s most famous painting, The Starry Night, is a masterpiece of art.
Although this painting has been studied and commented on by many art historians, I would still like to be a part of one to spread lightness on the painting.
The painting represents what Van Gogh could see from his mental asylum. This painting was too bright to be painted in the most tormenting phase of his life.
While many claims that this painting was, in fact, a cry of rebellion, others say that it was a depiction of his fragile mental state.
Let’s break it down into elements and then understand the fragments in a union.
The spiraling clouds have become an object of attention. The large whirling shape engulfs the painting like a wave inhaling the viewer’s gaze making them dizzy and dazed, giving an insight into Van Gogh’s mind.
To depict his troubled psyche, he imitated scientific reproductions of nebulae.
The sky ripples and flows like a river, captivating the viewer with its humanlike energy.
This famous Van Gogh painting has an element of spirituality mirrored in Van Gogh’s letters to his brother at the time, where he speaks of the “terrible need of religion. So at night goes out to paint the stars.”
The sky became a means for Van Gogh to understand and explore life after death.
Astrophysicists have concluded that Van Gogh’s sky matched the astronomical observations in Sant-Remy-de-Provence on May 25th, 1889.
Capella was abnormally bright when he painted the sky, so the stars appear to be bigger and more luminous.
The moon, just like stars, produces an enormous amount of light. However, the light remains in the sky and does not spread to the edges of the painting. The ground remains dark.
Since he was in the asylum, he could see only one small plot of land from his room. Unlike the numerous stars and vast sky, he did not directly observe the bell and village.
He recreated them from his imagination that remained at the bottom of the work, taking only one-third of the space.
The major feature of the work is the cypress, possibly the most important element. Thick, tormented, and rising like flame, a tree associated with death, the only way of accessing a life beyond earth!
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8. Irises, 1889
During his time at the asylum, Vincent Van Gogh painted 130 paintings, most of which drove inspired by his surroundings, especially the garden.
It was known that Van Gogh had set up his canvas in the garden and painted there for some time upon his arrival.
Van Gogh’s paintings did not have rough works, sketches, or versions. It was understood that he had started painting directly on the canvas.
Like Sunflowers, Irises were a subject of fascination for Van Gogh’s paintings.
If you happen to notice, each iris petal in the painting is unique, with different shading, shape, and size. Except for one blossom that was a completely different color.
One doesn’t really understand if really that one petal was different in color or if it was Van Gogh’s rebellious nature to distort the order just for a bit.
Japanese woodblock prints were a major influence on Van Gogh, and it is evident in Irises.
The woodblock prints had immense depth, innovative color projections, novel angles, and very strong outlines.
Irises seem to have topped all these traits with vibrant depictions of the flowers, leaves, and the background.
The painting simply consists of a plant with a background, and the painting depicts the direction in which the wind is blowing.
The entire painting has been made from the painter’s standing viewpoint.
While Van Gogh considered this work not serious, it was applauded alongside Starry Nights in his first exhibition.
What is even more interesting is that “Irises” held the record for the most expensive artwork in 1987 when it sold for $53.9 million USD.
9. Self Portrait with Bandaged Ears, 1889
This painting by Van Gogh depicted his wounded self in his famous act of self-mutilation, where he ended up slicing his ear with a blade.
Self Portrait with Bandaged Ears was the first of its kind to reflect Van Gogh’s torment and mental illness in an explicitly creative manner.
The portrait clearly conveys the state of mind that he was in.
Allowing the audience to look deep into his soul. There are features in the painting showing his disintegrated psychological state that dreadfully tortured him throughout his life.
This Van Gogh painting portrays himself as a haggard and low-spirited figure struggling with his internal demons.
To support his condition, Van Gogh decided to show his well-known episode of mental illness.
The one where he sliced his ear during an argument with Gaugin.
Features within the painting suggest that painting was the only way to keep him sane. Choosing Japanese print which hands on the wall in his self-portrait to emphasize his passion and inspiration for art.
Furthermore, a blank canvas suggests that he is keen to continue painting and indicates his hopes to produce more work.
It highlights how he bravely defies his illness and instead uses it to fuel him with creativity.
Uses of bright, vivid, and warm colors instead of darkness supports the idea that painting for him is therapeutic.
It was as if, with each painting, he was trying to be well.
Each painting was another attempt to rid himself of the anguish.
With torment swirling in his head, each attempt was to replace it with art.
This painting was in fact evidence of Van Gog’s attempt to deal with his mental disorder.
It depicts this cycle in which the artists suffer from recurring angst and depression.
Inevitably it was followed by attempts to create art, only to crash into depression again.
He also most likely wanted to tell the world that his torment was the reason behind his masterpieces.
His mental illness impeded his work and often dissuaded him away from his art. Yet at the same time, it also gave him creative inspiration.
Ultimately, the cycle could only end if he decided to put an end to his life.
Recommended Read: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
10. Almond Blossoms (1890)
Just like his other flower paintings,
the Almond Blossom painting by Vincent Van Gogh is an image brought to life by him.
Set on a mellow blue background are the almond blossoms growing in glory depicting and exploring the idea of life.
One of the most fruitful paintings of Van Gogh, it embraces Spring and the freshness of new life.
Completed in 1890, it was painted when he lived in the mental hospital, Saint-Paul-de-Mausole.
Since he hardly could go out of the four walls, all he could paint were the landscapes visible from the window of his room.
Unlike Frida Kahlo paintings that spoke of her pain, Van Gogh focussed more on the bright side despite being disturbed by his thoughts.
However, this painting was not just about Vincent Van Gogh and his thoughts.
The painting was in fact, an honor to his new nephew.
Van Gogh had a younger brother, Theo, a name you must have heard a couple of times in this article.
And for most of his life, he worked to support Theo financially. It was as if, Theo was the only human that kept Vincent alive, his quad-core processor.
This painting was finally made to welcome the newborn of Theo and his wife who wanted to name him after Vincent.
With the focus on Almond Blossom painted in an almost Japanese style, Vincent was hinting at the advent of Spring in France and the birth of his nephew that brought him pure joy.
Suggested Read: Almond Blossom by Van Gogh: A Painting of a New Beginning!
11. Wheatfield with Crows, 1890
Wheatfield with Crows was traditionally regarded as Van Gogh’s last painting. But also dated the month of the artist’s death, the idea that it was the final painting was in fact a myth.
There was also speculation that he was in fact killed while painting it, making it one of the most controversial artworks in existence today.
Keep reading and you will get to the last painting too. But for now, what was the significance of Wheatfield with Crows?
Vincent was always fascinated by wheatfields on the plateau in a village north of Paris, which was his abode for his last ten weeks.
The fields lay just give minute’s walk from the inn where he lodged, and he would often go there.
A similar landscape to Wheatfield with Crows was captured by Charles-François Daubigny, which Van Gogh greatly admired.
In July, Vincent painted one of his panoramic famous landscape paintings, he wrote to Theo and Jo:
“They are immense stretches of wheatfield under turbulent skies, and I made a point of trying to express sadness, extreme loneliness.”
Yet after his word “sadness,” Vincent pulled back.
He continued to write,
“these canvases will tell you what I can’t say in words, what I considered healthy and fortifying about the countryside.
Vincent was trying to reassure Theo about his psychological condition and express his love for the landscape.
He painted his favorite subject of the Provence. Wheat held a deep symbolic significance for him.
The fields would turn green in spring.
And finally the crop would ripen to burnished gold in late July – ready for reaping.
Although temporarily, the harvest left the fields bare and empty, representing a plentiful time with a never-ending life cycle.
Three weeks after painting Wheatfield with Crows, Vincent returned to the plateau one last time.
Shooting or being shot, remains one of the art mysteries.
But as history goes, Vincent died in the wheatfield he had painted repeatedly, wounding himself in the stomach.
Van Gogh expressed his darkest premonitions in wheatfield before finally giving in to his madness.
12. Tree Roots, 1890
Tree Roots was, in fact, the last painting created by Van Gogh that suggested a picturesque combination of roots and trunks.
This piece of art symbolizes the artist’s lifetime struggles at that moment.
The painting at first sight may depict a clutter of bright colors and whimsical non-concrete forms.
Looking beyond the sight, it indicated a slope with roots and tree trunks, the kind of trees that grow in marl quarries and are used for timber.
The artistic design did not come to completion and vividly explains an unfinished piece of art – Tree Roots, Van Gogh’s last painting.
After a keen look, the painting becomes apparent: plants, leaves, tree roots, and a sandy woodland floor with a touch of brown and yellow color.
Van Gogh also indicated other scenes of woods and trees.
Most of the paintings were trees without tops, in the last bits of art, it only indicated the roots of trees.
The painting was an inspiration for Van Gogh’s awkward moments. The morning before his death, he painted a forest scene full of life.
From the analysis, it is vivid Van Gogh was explaining his state of emotions. The painting is well-known across the universe.
The painting is unique in so many ways.
Debatably, it represents the development of modern art and gives the touch of unfinished works of art.
This unique piece of art is used by many artists in the industry today.
Van Gogh left a mark of creativity in the art industry.
It was one of its kind piece of art.
(Also Read: 12 Paintings by Hieronymus Bosch That Display Spine-Chilling Stories)
Vincent, This World Was Never Meant For You
The tortured artist, tortured by never hopeless!
Vincent Van Gogh taught an entire generation of modern artists to make their insanity a fuel for their creativity.
He taught the entire generation of modern artists to break free from the struggles and paint, paint until they set them free.
Vincent van Gogh lies next to his brother in Auvers-Sur-Oise behind the wheatfield he was fascinated so much.
He might have experienced the afterlife, and would probably be painting there also.
But Vincent remains in the heart of artists, and their love for him only gets stronger.
To Vincent Van Gogh Paintings, To Vincent Van Gogh, the tortured artist!
Words cannot explain it, so I leave with this song!
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I hope this piece gave you insights into Van Gogh’s life through his art.
If you enjoyed this article, do read my article on the Post Impressionist Artists to understand the painting styles of Van Gogh and his Contemporaries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Starry Night is one of the most recognized and famous Van Gogh paintings in the world.
The largest collection of famous Van Gogh paintings can be found in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Van Gogh’s paintings are the most famous due to their expressiveness and brilliant use of energetic and vibrant colors.
The styles that were commonly used by Van Gogh are Neo-Impressionism, Pointillism, and Post-Impressionism.
Three facts about Vincent are:
1. He only sold 1 painting in his lifetime.
2. His most famous painting, Starry Night, was sold in an insane asylum.
3. He was a selfie king.