Johannes Vermeer had only been rediscovered a few years earlier in Van Gogh’s time—but Vincent and his brother Theo were early enthusiasts. Théophile Thoré-Bürger, the French critic who made the Delft master famous, published his catalogue in 1866, when the two Van Gogh brothers were boys.
Vincent’s favourite Vermeer was View of Delft (1660-61), which he saw in the Mauritshuis when he was living in The Hague. In hospital in June 1882, while being treated for gonorrhoea, he wrote to Theo: “The view from the window of the ward is splendid to me: wharves, the canal with potato barges, the backs of houses being demolished, with workers, a bit of garden and in the next, more distant plane the quay with the row of trees and lamp-posts, a complicated court with its gardens, and also all the roofs, all seen in a bird’s-eye view.”
He went on to compare the light effects he saw from the window of the crowded ward with those in Vermeer’s atmospheric painting. While suffering a painful treatment, dreaming of View of Delft comforted him.
Three years later he again wrote about View of Delft, telling Theo that “when one sees it from close to, the townscape in The Hague [at the Mauritshuis] is incredible, and done with completely different colours from what one would suppose a few steps away [from the painting]”.
In July 1888, while living in Arles, Vincent wrote to his artist friend Emile Bernard about Woman in blue reading a Letter (1662-64) at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum: “Do you know a painter called Vermeer, who, for example, painted a very beautiful Dutch lady, pregnant? This strange painter’s palette is blue, lemon yellow, pearl grey, black, white. Of course, in his few paintings there are, if it comes to it, all the riches of a complete palette.”
Well over a century after Van Gogh’s time, there is still a debate over whether the woman was pregnant or not. The catalogue for the current Rijksmuseum exhibition comments: “Much thought has been given to whether the amply cut piece of clothing is a clear sign of the woman being pregnant. As the garment itself does not provide a clear answer, the speculation will continue—which is perhaps just what Vermeer intended.”
Two months later Vincent returned to View of Delft in a letter to Theo, comparing Vermeer’s townscape to Arles and its surroundings under the Provençal light: “Nature here is extraordinarily beautiful. Everything and everywhere. The dome of the sky is a wonderful blue, the sun has a pale sulphur radiance, and it’s soft and charming, like the combination of celestial blues and yellows in paintings by Vermeer of Delft. I can’t paint as beautifully as that, but it absorbs me so much that I let myself go without thinking about any rule.”
Vermeer helped give Van Gogh the confidence to break the rules of conventional art. After discussing the Delft master he immediately went on to give some examples of his own recent work, including the four versions of Sunflowers which he had just completed a few weeks earlier. Of course Van Gogh’s work is completely different from Vermeer’s, but both artists broke new ground.
What has not been appreciated is that the Paris gallery where Theo worked, Boussod & Valadon, may well have helped sell two Vermeers: Mistress and Maid (1664–67) and Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid (1670–72).
In July 1889 Boussod & Valadon was one of the two firms involved in the auction of the famed collection of Etienne Secrétan, the wealthy owner of a copper foundry. The sale was held at the Charles Sedelmeyer gallery, but with assistance from Boussod & Valadon, as it recorded on the cover of the catalogue.
Theo was heavily involved in the sale. His wife Jo wrote to her family about the scene outside the auctioneers: “The whole street full of vehicles – unbearably hot inside and naturally a sea of people ... I shall be glad for Theo when it’s all over, for he is extremely busy.” A few days later she sent a letter to Vincent, saying that Theo “has been caused a great deal of fatigue by that Secrétan sale”.
Theo, the manager of the Boussod & Valadon branch in Boulevard Montmartre, dealt largely with 19th-century art, so it is unclear whether he was directly involved with the two Vermeers. But he would certainly have seen the paintings at close hand.
Both Vermeers sold: Mistress and Maid to the Russian statesman Alexander Polovstov (now in the Frick Collection, New York) and Woman writing a Letter, with her Maid to the Paris-based Marinoni collection (now at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin).
In February 1890, after Vincent had moved to the asylum on the outskirts of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Theo wrote about a visit to the Louvre that he had just made with their sister Wil. Theo told his brother that The Lacemaker (1666-70) had been moved since they had seen it together two or three years earlier, when Vincent was living with him in Paris. It was now hanging at eye level, so the details of this jewel-like canvas could be better appreciated.
Both Van Gogh brothers appear to have been equally enthusiastic about Vermeer. The Delft artist’s popularity has rocketed since their day, witness the sold-out retrospective at the Rijksmuseum. Two of the world’s half dozen most popular artists are now Dutchmen, both with surnames beginning with V.
Other Van Gogh news:
Pensioner drinking Coffee (November 1882), an extremely rare print by Van Gogh, is coming up for sale. The lithograph is being offered on 10 May by Leiden-based Burgersdijk & Niermans, with an estimate of €80,000.
Only three impressions of this print are known, two of which are at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. This third example was given by Van Gogh to his artist friend Anton van Rappard. After later passing through the d'Audretsch gallery in The Hague it has been in the same family for nearly a century.
The print depicts Adrianus Jacobus Zuyderland, who was living in an almshouse in The Hague where Van Gogh regularly went to sketch its elderly residents. Zuyderland, then aged 72, was his favourite model.
Sotheby’s offered what was cataloged as another version of Pensioner drinking Coffee on 20 April 2016 in New York. The estimate was $180,000-$200,000. It turned out that the Sotheby’s print was not authentic, and was merely a later reproduction—- and it was withdrawn before the auction.
Martin Bailey is the author of Van Gogh’s Finale: Auvers and the Artist’s Rise to Fame (Frances Lincoln, 2021, available in the UK and US ). He is a leading Van Gogh specialist and investigative reporter for The Art Newspaper. Bailey has curated Van Gogh exhibitions at the Barbican Art Gallery and Compton Verney/National Gallery of Scotland. He was a co-curator of Tate Britain’s The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain (27 March-11 August 2019).
Bailey has written a number of other bestselling books, including The Sunflowers Are Mine: The Story of Van Gogh's Masterpiece (Frances Lincoln 2013, available in the UK and US), Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence(Frances Lincoln 2016, available in the UK and US), Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum (White Lion Publishing 2018, available in the UK and US) and Van Gogh’s Finale:Auvers and the Artist’s Rise to Fame(Frances Lincoln 2021,available in the UK and US). Bailey's Living with Vincent van Gogh: the Homes and Landscapes that Shaped the Artist (White Lion Publishing 2019, available in the UK and US) provides an overview of the artist’s life. The Illustrated Provence Letters of Van Gogh has been reissued (Batsford 2021, available in the UK and US).
To contact Martin Bailey, please email email@example.com. Please note that he does not undertake authentications.
Read more from Martin's Adventures with Van Gogh bloghere.
Van Gogh worked with oil paint. He used both paint with (natural) pigments, made the same way for centuries, as well as paint with new synthetic colourings. In Van Gogh's time, an age of revolutionary scientific advancement, these colourings were being developed for the textile industry.Why did Van Gogh paint like he did? ›
Vincent van Gogh began painting after he worked as an art dealer and missionary. The purpose of his art was to express his individualism and emotions in the everyday items that inspired him. He painted landscapes and still life's, he loved and was inspired by nature.What colors did Van Gogh use the most? ›
Yellow was Vincent Van Gogh's favorite color. He preferred yellow ochre in the beginning of his career, adding the newly discovered pigments cadmium yellow and chrome yellow later on. He transformed the light in his landscapes into pure color.What colours did Van Gogh use to paint Starry Night? ›
The pigment analysis has shown that the sky was painted with ultramarine and cobalt blue, and for the stars and the moon, Van Gogh employed the rare pigment indian yellow together with zinc yellow. Details of Van Gogh's The Starry Night exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art of New York.How did Van Gogh use color to express his emotions? ›
To express his emotions Vincent van Gogh looked for contrast by using complementary colors; they intensify each other. Another way to play with colors was to paint different shades of color next to each other.Why did Van Gogh use so much yellow and blue? ›
'Van Gogh's use of yellow is considered to derive from the sun, and appears to be related to an ambivalence to his father, as expressed in sun worship, while the complementary colours red and green were correlated with his bisexuality and castration anxiety. 'What influenced Vincent van Gogh to paint? ›
Van Gogh's earliest paintings were earth-toned scenes of nature and peasants, but he became increasingly influenced by Japanese prints and the work of the impressionists in France.What are 3 interesting facts about Vincent van Gogh? ›
- He only sold 1 painting in his lifetime.
- He was a prolific artist.
- He painted his most famous painting, Starry Night, in an insane asylum.
- He was a selfie king.
The Sunflowers is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery. It is the painting that is most often reproduced on cards, posters, mugs, tea-towels and stationery. It was also the picture that Van Gogh was most proud of.Why did Van Gogh paint himself so much? ›
Vincent produced his self-portraits because he wanted to practise painting people. The majority of them – over 25 – were done while he was in Paris (1886–88). He was short of money in that period and struggled to find models. So the artist chose the simplest solution and painted himself.
Why Van Gogh used such amount of blue? Not only to paint the own color of the objects themselves, but also to express his emotion. Blue represents a depressing atmosphere that Van Gogh felt. Here, seven images of Starry Night were magnified to see how Van Gogh did his exclusive color scheme.Which artist ate yellow paint? ›
Following Vincent van Gogh's death in 1890, numerous physicians have offered diagnostic opinions regarding his still unverified illness. The discovery that he had ingested leaded oil paints prompted research that revealed his exposure to additional sources of lead and other toxic substances for 13 years before death.What color did Van Gogh love? ›
Everybody knows that Vincent van Gogh loved the colour yellow. But why? Well, the story begins 19,000 years ago... After that we see yellow cropping up in ancient art across the world, again from ochre.Did Van Gogh use bright colors? ›
Van Gogh's use of colors
He first used dark colors such as olive green, raw sienna and raw umber. Then he added bright colors to the color palette of his paintings. Colors such as yellow, orange, red, blue and green.
Vincent wanted to know more about how colours work. He studied lots of books on colour theory, from which he learned that complementary colours – red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange – intensify one another.What influenced Van Gogh to paint Starry Night? ›
Van Gogh was seeking respite from plaguing depression at the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy in southern France when he painted The Starry Night. It reflects his direct observations of his view of the countryside from his window as well as the memories and emotions this view evoked in him.What is a famous quote from Van Gogh? ›
“Art is to console those who are broken by life.” “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” “I try more and more to be myself, caring relatively little whether people approve or disapprove.” “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”Did Van Gogh hear colors? ›
“Vincent Van Gogh explained in his letters that for him, sounds had colors and that certain colors, like yellow and blue, were like fireworks for his senses” (Katie 2018).Did Van Gogh exaggerated the colors and forms he saw to express his emotions? ›
Van Gogh is described as an “expressionist” because he uses paint to express what he feels, rather than what he sees. He did this by purely pictorial means: expressive color, expressive brushstroke, and exaggeration/distortion of form.Why did Van Gogh swallow yellow paint? ›
The medical notes of Dr Peyron, Vincent's physician, reveal that Vincent wanted to poison himself by eating paint and drinking turpentine. That's probably why he wasn't allowed into his studio while he was suffering from his attacks.
The “Yellow House” is famous in Van Gogh's story because of the art he created to help decorate his house and because it was the time of his significant artistic breakthroughs. Van Gogh wanted to furnish and decorate the Yellow House before he could fully move in, but he was able first to use it first as a studio.What was the yellow paint that Van Gogh used to paint Sunflowers and what was the problem with this paint? ›
Chrome Yellow: With Time, It Browns Under The Sun
To produce “Sunflowers,” his famous series of still lifes, van Gogh relied on chrome yellows, a family of lead chromate pigments that had only been brought to market earlier that century in the 1810s.
Possibly one of the greatest artistic influences on Vincent van Gogh was Paul Gauguin. Van Gogh and Gauguin met in Paris in November of 1887.What three artists influenced Van Gogh? ›
Van Gogh was influenced by Millet, Monet, Gauguin and many others, but most of all perhaps by the Japanese artist Hiroshige (1797 - 1858).Did Vincent van Gogh have a love? ›
Although Vincent fell in love several times, he only ever lived with one woman. Sien Hoornik, whom he met in The Hague, was working as a prostitute when Van Gogh approached her to model for his drawings. They quickly developed a relationship.Did Van Gogh have a happy life? ›
Van Gogh was simply happy quite often and appreciated his life chasing his dreams to be a recognized artist. Also during the last months of his life in Auver-sûr-Oise.Why was Van Gogh never famous? ›
Answer and Explanation: Vincent van Gogh was not famous while he was alive because the style of his paintings was not popular. When he began painting, he painted int he style of the old Dutch masters using dark colors. These paintings were not well-received.Did Van Gogh think he was a good artist? ›
When van Gogh painted his most famous painting, The Starry Night, he didn't even think it was any good. In fact, van Gogh considered himself and many of his paintings to be failures, and it's rumored that he only ever sold one painting in his lifetime.What artist did Van Gogh inspire? ›
Van Gogh provided inspiration for a great many artists, and Henri Matisse and Paul Klee, were among the first to be inspired by his individual technique. Matisse was influenced by van Gogh and had one of his drawings on display in his home.What is the masterpiece of Van Gogh? ›
The Starry Night is considered to be Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece, painted while he was a patient in a mental asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
His canvases with densely laden, visible brushstrokes rendered in a bright, opulent palette emphasize Van Gogh's personal expression brought to life in paint. Each painting provides a direct sense of how the artist viewed each scene, interpreted through his eyes, mind, and heart.How many times did Van Gogh paint himself? ›
Vincent van Gogh is instantly recognizable by his reddish hair and beard, his gaunt features, and intense gaze. Van Gogh painted some 36 self-portraits in the space of only ten years. Perhaps only Rembrandt produced more, and his career spanned decades.Is it true that Van Gogh never sold a painting? ›
The story's true, but it has been fed by a legend that's not. According to popular lore, van Gogh sold only one painting in his entire life. This oft-repeated tale was challenged more than 30 years ago, but it still goes on. In fact, van Gogh sold at least two paintings in his lifetime, and some drawings as well.What did Van Gogh say about blue? ›
"There is no blue without yellow and without orange." ~ Vincent Van Gogh.What is the saddest Van Gogh painting? ›
At Eternity's Gate is one of Van Gogh's most emotional paintings, which demonstrates a deep understanding of emotion through the physical reaction of the subject. The painting portrays an old man seated in a chair with his hands on his head, weeping at the thought of his life coming to an end.What color blue did Van Gogh use? ›
Ultramarine blue is a natural pigment that Van Gogh used to create the deep, rich blues in his paintings. It is made from ground lapis lazuli and has been used by artists for centuries.Who invented yellow paint? ›
Short History of Yellow Pigments
The oldest yellow pigment is yellow ochre, which was amongst the first pigments used by humans. Egyptians and the ancient world made wide use of the mineral orpiment for a more brilliant yellow than yellow ochre. In the Middle Ages, Europeans manufactured lead tin yellow.
Short Stories: The Yellow Paint by Robert Louis Stevenson. In a certain city there lived a physician who sold yellow paint. This was of so singular a virtue that whoso was bedaubed with it from head to heel was set free from the dangers of life, and the bondage of sin, and the fear of death for ever.What was in yellow paint? ›
The yellow pigment was made by grinding together two parts of lead and one part of sea salt into water. The mixture was allowed to stand for twenty-four hours before a caustic soda solution was poured off and the remaining white substance was heated (and dried) until it reached the desired shade of yellow.Why did Van Gogh paint in swirls? ›
These works were created when van Gogh was mentally unstable: the artist is known to have experienced psychotic episodes in which he had hallucinations, minor fits and lapses of consciousness, perhaps indicating epilepsy.
Van Gogh used different shades of purple in some of his best paintings such as the Orchard in Bloom with View of Arles, Starry night over the Rhone, The Sower, Wheat field and Vincent's Bedroom in Arles.What inspired Van Gogh to use bright colors? ›
Van Gogh spent two years painting in Paris where he met, and was inspired by, French Impressionists of the time. He began to express himself with bright warm colors, contrasting the browns and greys found in his work thus far. Another inspiration was the vibrant, rural imagery of Japanese woodblock prints.Did Van Gogh have color blindness? ›
A person with fully functioning colour vision can expect to see Van Gogh's famous Starry Night painting in the following shades: However, it is thought that Van Gogh himself suffered from protanopia, the most common type of colour blindness.Did Van Gogh use primary colors? ›
Primary colours (yellow, red and blue) are colours that you cannot create by mixing other colours with each other. Vincent van Gogh was convinced that these three basic colours are all you need to create any desired colour.What was Van Gogh's favorite color Why? ›
Yellow was Vincent Van Gogh's favorite color. He preferred yellow ochre in the beginning of his career, adding the newly discovered pigments cadmium yellow and chrome yellow later on. He transformed the light in his landscapes into pure color.What did Sunflowers mean to Van Gogh? ›
The 'Sunflowers' were meant to symbolise gratitude
Vincent thought that the triptych as a whole symbolised gratitude. Use the up and down keys to compare the two images. Vincent van Gogh, letter sketch of van Woman Rocking the Cradle with Sunflowers on both sides. // (1) Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, 1889.
Alongside van Gogh's use of yellow in “Sunflowers,” the artist also features green, orange, and a touch of red and blue. Blue and orange are opposite colors in the color wheel based in pigment, as are red and green.What style of art is van Gogh? › How did Vincent van Gogh feel when he painted Starry Night? ›
The Starry Night was painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889. Although it is one of his most famous works, it was not recognized as a masterpiece during his lifetime. Van Gogh himself felt the painting was a failure.How much would Starry Night sell for? ›
He has created some of the most recognizable pieces in art history, including the iconic The Starry Night (1889), estimated at between $70 million to $100 million. Laborer in a Field and Wooden Cabins among the Olive Trees and Cypresses sold for more than $70 million in 2017 and 2021, respectively.
“The sadness will last forever.” “There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”What did Picasso say about Van Gogh? ›
“Of all the artists with whom Picasso identified, Van Gogh is the least often cited but probably the one that meant the most to him in later years. He talked of him as his patron saint, talked of him with intense admiration and compassion, never with any of his habitual irony or mockery.How did Van Gogh feel about color? ›
Vincent wanted to know more about how colours work. He studied lots of books on colour theory, from which he learned that complementary colours – red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange – intensify one another. Vincent now understood the theoretical principles behind these colour pairs.How did Van Gogh lose his hearing? ›
Vincent van Gogh cut off his left ear when tempers flared with Paul Gauguin, the artist with whom he had been working for a while in Arles. Van Gogh's illness revealed itself: he began to hallucinate and suffered attacks in which he lost consciousness. During one of these attacks, he used the knife.How did Vincent van Gogh use color to express his emotions? ›
To express his emotions Vincent van Gogh looked for contrast by using complementary colors; they intensify each other. Another way to play with colors was to paint different shades of color next to each other.What mental illness did Van Gogh think? ›
Plagued by psychiatric illness throughout his life, van Gogh committed suicide in 1890. Evidence suggests that he had manic depression, a chronic mental illness thought affects many creative people.What was Van Gogh's favorite subject to paint? ›
Vincent van Gogh painted no less than 15 paintings of olive trees. It was one of his favorite subjects when he was allowed to paint outside of the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.What type of brush did Van Gogh use? ›
Van Gogh used large hog hair brushes and no medium. His palette included many of the new 19th-century colours so favoured by the Impressionists: Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Viridian Green, Chrome Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Vermilion and Ochre.What art element was Van Gogh obsessed with? ›
Vincent Van Gogh was obsessed with the pigments in his paints, and he knew as much or more about their composition and vulnerability as many of his contemporaries. So it is a tragic irony that many of the bright red and yellow pigments van Gogh used on his masterpieces are fading or changing color with time.What mediums did Vincent van Gogh use? › Did Van Gogh use a palette knife or brush? ›
In addition to brushes, Van Gogh also used a palette knife in making this painting. With the knife, he spread the paint into a glossy, transparent layer in some places. This created the effect of sunlight on the waves and brought the colours to life.What are the main characteristics of his artwork Van Gogh? ›
His canvases with densely laden, visible brushstrokes rendered in a bright, opulent palette emphasize Van Gogh's personal expression brought to life in paint. Each painting provides a direct sense of how the artist viewed each scene, interpreted through his eyes, mind, and heart.Why is Van Gogh's art so iconic? ›
Van Gogh is today one of the most popular of the Post-Impressionist painters, although he was not widely appreciated during his lifetime. He is now famed for the great vitality of his works which are characterised by expressive and emotive use of brilliant colour and energetic application of impastoed paint.What is Van Gogh iconic painting? ›
Starry Night, 1889
Van Gogh's painting Starry Night (1889), is one of his most iconic. Leading up to this point, Van Gogh had been suffering from mental health issues, so much so that it led to him cutting off his left ear.
Vincent van Gogh was a unique artist who worked with a sense of urgency which often caused him a great deal of stress. He was famed for his bold, dramatic brush strokes which expressed emotion and added a feeling of movement to his works.Did Van Gogh tone his canvas? ›
Tone on tone
Tonal painting is a technique based on light and dark variations of a single colour. Van Gogh used different shades of blue-green in this simple still life of a yarn-winder. A lighter tone of the same colour accentuates the places on which the light falls.