Field with Poppies – Vincent van Gogh

Field with Poppies (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Field with Poppies, 1888, Oil on Canvas

Arles, May 1888

February 19th, 1888, van Gogh quits Paris and moves to Arles, were he expected to find “yet more colour, yet more sun”. Besides looking for a new source of inspiration, Vincent wanted to create an artistic cooperative that would support (financially and psychologically) every painter that was excluded from the official art world.

During his stay in Arles, at the Yellow House, Vincent created some of his most recognizable paintings, such as Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles (1888), Café Terrace at Night (1888) as well as Starry Night over the Rhone (1888) an overture of his prominent Starry Night (1889).

Reference book: BRUG A. (2004), van Gogh, Munich: Prestel


Head of a Prostitute – Vincent van Gogh

Head of a Prostitute (1885)
Vincent van Gogh, Head of a Prostitute, 1885, Oil on Canvas

Antwerp, December 1885

At the end of  1885, aged thirty-three, van Gogh moves to Antwerp, seeking an urban environment and the company of fellow artists. In January 1886 he sits the entrance exam for the advanced classes at the École des Beaux-Arts and when he found out about his rejection, he was unperturbed. Inspired by Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Hals, he creates a series of superb and lively portraits, characterised by his rapid technique. Urban motifs in the city’s port and the hectic activity of the stevedores and sailors appealed to him and were his main themes.

Reference book: BRUG A. (2004), van Gogh, Munich: Prestel

Weaver – Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, Weaver, 1884, Pencil, Watercolour and Ink on Paper

Nuenen, December 1883 – August 1884

In 1883 Vincent’s precarious finances became unbearable, forcing him to move once again into his parents’ home, in Nuenen, where they had lived since summer 1882. Fascinated by the working class he focused on the representation of industrious weavers and their looms, man and machine almost fused together.

A weaver sits, bent in concentration, over his loom, which fills almost the entire picture. Van Gogh devoted considerable attention to representing the machine accurately. It was hard, ‘because in the small rooms one can’t get far enough away to draw the loom’, he wrote to his brother, Theo.

Confident about the qualities of his weaver drawings he hoped to be able to sell them, which probably explains why he signed this drawing.

References: BRUG A. (2004), van Gogh, Munich: Prestel, Van Gogh Museum

Bridge and Houses on the Corner of Herengracht-Prinsessegracht – Vincent van Gogh

Bridge and Houses on the Corner of Herengracht-Prinsessegracht
Vincent van Gogh, Bridge and Houses on the Corner of Herengracht-Prinsessegracht, 1882, Pencil, Ink and Watercolour on Paper

The Hague, March 1882

In 1880, Theo van Gogh was the only member of the family that supported Vincent’s decision to devote his life to Art. He would send him money for his everyday needs so that Vincent could spend his time studying and copying works made by his favourite painters, such as Jean François Millet, and gain a better understanding of rules of proportion and perspective in painting. After quite a few travels to Hague, where he worked at Anton Mauve’s studio (a leading representative of the School of Hague), Vincent settled in the city during winter of 1881. He mostly draw on paper themes inspired by the working class.

Reference book: BRUG A. (2004), van Gogh, Munich: Prestel

Les Iris – Vincent van Gogh

Les Iris (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Les Iris, 1889, Oil on Canvas

Flowers were one of van Gogh’s favourite things to paint.

He created a whole Sunflowers series while in Arles, in order to gift them to his colleague, Gauguin, who was coming to stay with him at the Yellow House. Although sunflowers might represent the luminous south of France, they still remind us the mortality of human nature.

In 1889 van Gogh was forced to leave Arles due to a signed petition that declared him a “public danger”, so he travelled to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and admitted himself to an asylum. At Saint-Rémy his flower-of-choice shifted from sunflowers to irises and his palette was full of darker halftones, just like his mental state.

Painted a year before his suicide, while suffering from epileptoid psychosis, this is one of my favourite paintings by van Gogh. With lighter chromatic contrasts than usual and rather gloomy colours, Irises just brings to my mind the clouds that one might feel over his head with no apparent reason.

Reference book: BRUG A. (2004), van Gogh, Munich: Prestel