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kottke.org posts about Vincent van Gogh

Great Art Explained: van Gogh’s Starry Night

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

Bear with me, I am on a bit of an art kick lately. As I said earlier this week, I’ve been slowly working my way through James Payne’s Great Art Explained video series. But then — bang! — he came out with a new episode on Vincent van Gogh and his masterpiece, Starry Night. Having seen this painting in person for the first time in a few years just days ago at MoMA, I abandoned the back catalog and dug in to this new one immediately.

Van Gogh is one of my favorites — I spent several happy hours at his museum in Amsterdam in 2017 — and Payne does a good job of contextualizing his life and work around the time he painted Starry Night, particularly the emphasis on the influence of Japanese art on his work and his probable incorporation of spiral galaxy imagery into Starry Night. Highly recommended, especially if you’ve seen the painting in person.

“The Woman Who Made van Gogh”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2021

Self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh

There are certain writers that, when I see their byline, I read their stuff, even if it takes me a few weeks to find the time. Ever since reading his excellent The Island at the Center of the World, Russell Shorto has been one of those writers. His latest piece, The Woman Who Made van Gogh, tells the story of Jo van Gogh-Bonger who, after both her husband Theo and her brother-in-law Vincent died within a year and a half of each other, worked tirelessly for decades to get Vincent’s work out into the world.

The brothers’ dying so young, Vincent at 37 and Theo at 33, and without the artist having achieved renown — Theo had managed to sell only a few of his paintings — would seem to have ensured that Vincent van Gogh’s work would subsist eternally in a netherworld of obscurity. Instead, his name, art and story merged to form the basis of an industry that stormed the globe, arguably surpassing the fame of any other artist in history. That happened in large part thanks to Jo van Gogh-Bonger. She was small in stature and riddled with self-doubt, had no background in art or business and faced an art world that was a thoroughly male preserve. Her full story has only recently been uncovered. It is only now that we know how van Gogh became van Gogh.

Because of her work, Vincent van Gogh is a household name all over the world and even the way people think about artists and their art forever changed.

Van Gogh That Was in Private Hands for More Than a Century Up for Auction

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 08, 2021

painting by Vincent van Gogh of Montmartre

A painting by Vincent van Gogh that hasn’t been exhibited for the public since it was painted in 1887 is up for auction this month. The Paris landscape was created by the Dutch master on the cusp of his impressionist phase:

The work reflects Van Gogh’s exploration of a new city as well as his first encounter with the Impressionists and other avant-garde painters in Paris, which in turn sparked a transformation of his palette. “Gone were the dark tones of his early works, replaced with color in all its brilliance,” Sotheby’s writes in a statement. “It was in Montmartre, during these formative years, that the foundations of his inimitable style were established.”

There’s some press release sales bluster here, but looking at the painting, you can see inklings of his signature kinetic style — the flag appears to flutter, the trees wave in the wind, and the windmill spins. The whole thing is alive with motion. Wonderful. Here it is with the (assumed) original frame:

Van Gogh Montmartre 02

I hope that whoever buys it makes it available for public display; I’d love to see it someday.

A Virtual Tour of the Van Gogh Museum

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Van Gogh Self Portrait

One of my favorite museums I’ve visited in the past few years is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Van Gogh’s art career lasted for only 10 years, and the museum provides a fascinating account (through his work, letters, and other material) of how a talented but unremarkable painter made the conceptual breakthrough for which he is now known the world over.

The museum is closed due to the pandemic, but anyone with an internet connection can experience the collection at home thanks to the museum’s dedication to accessibility. This 15-minute tour of the museum filmed in 4K resolution should get you started — here are the first two parts:

The museum has also digitized and put online hundreds of the artist’s paintings, sketches, and letters. The high resolution scans allow you to see details that you probably couldn’t in person. This is a close-up view of the 1887 self-portrait pictured above:

Van Gogh Self Hat Detail

It’s mind-blowing to see all of those brushstrokes in such detail.

The museum’s website offers a number of other ways to engage with van Gogh’s art, including coloring activities and lessons for children. And for those who exhaust the museum’s offerings, try browsing van Gogh’s works at Google Arts & Culture, MoMA, the Met, and the Rijksmuseum. (via open culture)

Lego Frida Kahlo

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2019

Lego Frida

Behold a Lego portrait of Frida Kahlo made by visual artist Karen Cantú Q. She was inspired by Marco Sodano’s Lego portraits made for the company — you’ve likely seen his Mona Lisa but I’m partial to the van Gogh.

Lego Van Gogh

Art Zoom

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2019

Google Arts & Culture, with expertise from music video geniuses La Blogothèque, have produced a series of videos they’re calling Art Zoom. Inspired a bit by ASMR, the videos feature musicians talking about famous artworks while they zoom in & out of high-res images taken with Google’s Art Camera. Here, start with Maggie Rogers talking about Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night:

You can zoom into Starry Night yourself and get even closer than this:

Starry Night Closeup

The other two videos in the series feature Jarvis Coker talking about Monet’s La Gare Saint Lazare and Feist talking about The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Van Gogh’s The Night CafĂ© Was Among His “Ugliest Pictures”

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 07, 2019

In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh called his 1888 oil painting The Night Café “one of the ugliest pictures I have done”.

Van Gogh Night Cafe

In this video, Evan Puschak looks at what van Gogh meant by that and how he used discordant colors together to suggest a mood.

van Gogh wrote of his intentions for the painting to his brother:

I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens, in the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance, contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a rose nosegay. The white clothes of the landlord, watchful in a corner of that furnace, turn lemon-yellow, or pale luminous green.

Van Gogh’s Starry Night painted on top of water

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2017

Artist Garip Ay recently painted van Gogh’s Starry Night (along with his self-portrait) on top of water. Ebru, or paper marbling, is an art form where paint or ink is splattered or “painted” on the surface of water. Typically the painted scene is then transferred to paper with the finished product resembling polished marble stone. But Ay records his marbling on video and the effect is pretty cool.

See also the art of making marbled paper, which is well worth your attention.

Found: van Gogh’s lost sketchbook

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2016

Van Gogh Drawing

In 2013, art historian Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov was asked to look at some drawings that may have been done by Vincent van Gogh. What she found was an entire sketchbook containing 65 drawings done by the artist during his time spent in Provence.

As Welsh-Ovcharov began the painstaking process of authenticating the works over the past three years, the story of the sketchbook also came to light.

It was, in fact, an old-fashioned business ledger, approximately 26 by 40 centimetres, that had been given to van Gogh in May 1888 by the owners of a café in Arles, where he was temporarily living. The high-quality blank pages were ideal for use as an artist’s sketchbook.

Two years later, after van Gogh cut off his ear following an argument with the painter Paul Gauguin and spent many months in hospitals in Arles and Saint-Rémy, a doctor he had befriended returned the book of drawings to the café owners. Then for generations, it languished, likely stored with other business ledgers.

Fortunately, there was independent proof that this was van Gogh’s work, thanks to a small notebook that had also belonged to the café, documenting daily activities. It contained an entry for May 20, 1890 noting that van Gogh’s friend, Dr. Felix Rey, had returned a large album of drawings, along with some empty olive jars and towels, to the café owners on behalf of the artist.

Drawing from the sketchbook are being released as a book: Vincent van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook.

Update: As noted in the CBC piece, The Van Gogh Museum disputes the authenticity of the sketchbook.

At an earlier stage (in 2008 and 2012), our experts gave their opinion on its authenticity — an opinion not mentioned in the publication — at the request of various owners of drawings from the album. Our researchers and curators are happy about every new work that can correctly be attributed to Van Gogh, but on the basis of high-quality photographs sent to them of 56 of the 65 drawings now published, they concluded that these could not be attributed to Vincent van Gogh. After examining a number of the original drawings in 2013 and reading the recent publication, our experts have not changed their minds.

Their evidence is that the drawings do not show van Gogh’s characteristic style, use the wrong ink, contain many topographical errors, and so on. (thx, everyone)

Vincent van Gogh visits a gallery of his paintings in the present day

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2016

In an episode of Doctor Who from 2010, the Doctor and his companion Amy take Vincent van Gogh, who was not a commercially successful artist in his own lifetime, to the Musée d’Orsay to see an entire room filled with his paintings. The resulting scene is unexpectedly touching.

Tilt-shift van Gogh

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2016

Tilt Shift Van Gogh

Tilt Shift Van Gogh

Scenes from van Gogh paintings, modified with a fake tilt-shift effect. (via colossal)

Loving Vincent

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2016

Loving Vincent is an upcoming feature-length film about Vincent van Gogh that is animated in an unusual way: using 12 oil paintings per second. They’ve trained dozens of painters — and are looking for more if you’re interested — in the style of van Gogh to illustrate every instant of the film. Here are some of the painters working on the movie:

Loving Vincent

Update: A full trailer is out:

(via colossal)

Paint like there’s nobody watching (or buying)

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2016

Adam Westbrook talks about Vincent van Gogh and the benefit of doing creative work without the audience in mind. Having never read Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow (I know, I know), I was unfamiliar with the word “autotelic”. From Wikipedia:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes people who are internally driven, and as such may exhibit a sense of purpose and curiosity, as autotelic. This determination is an exclusive difference from being externally driven, where things such as comfort, money, power, or fame are the motivating force.

Doug Belshaw has a bit more on autotelism and how it relates to education.

Alice in a Neural Networks Wonderland

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2015

Gene Kogan used some neural network software written by Justin Johnson to transfer the style of paintings by 17 artists to a scene from Disney’s 1951 animated version of Alice in Wonderland. The artists include Sol Lewitt, Picasso, Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe, and van Gogh.

Neural Wonderland

The effect works amazingly well, like if you took Alice in Wonderland and a MoMA catalog and put them in a blender. (via prosthetic knowledge)

Extrapolated Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2014

Yarin Gal used an “inpainting” algorithm to extend the canvases of notable paintings. Like van Gogh’s Starry Night or Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa:

Extrapolated Art

Extrapolated Art

There’s a post on the Wolfram Alpha blog about how you can achieve similar effects using the Wolfram Language.

Wind and water current maps by van Gogh

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2012

A pair of recent info visualizations look as though they were painted by Vincent van Gogh. Wind Map shows the realtime flow of wind over the United States.

Wind map

Perpetual Ocean is a NASA animation of ocean currents around the world.

Would be cool to see both of these rendered through Stamen’s watercolor filter.

Night colors of Van Gogh

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2008

Color palettes taken from a MoMA exhibition of nighttime paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Review of the show by the NY Times.

Hidden van Gogh

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2008

X-ray analysis has revealed a van Gogh painting underneath another van Gogh painting. (via clusterflock)

Photograph of the graves of Vincent and

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2007

Photograph of the graves of Vincent and Theodore van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. (Don’t quite know why I’m posting this…it just struck me is all.)

Van Gogh’s Starry Night done in Lego

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2006

Van Gogh’s Starry Night done in Lego. (via photojojo)

Vincent van Gogh painted turbulence quite accurately.

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2006

Vincent van Gogh painted turbulence quite accurately. Mexican scientists “have found that the Dutch artist’s works have a pattern of light and dark that closely follows the deep mathematical structure of turbulent flow”.

Just Van Gogh!

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2005

A quick note about the Van Gogh show at the Met that’s closing at the end of the month: if you’re in NYC, go see it. Admittedly, I’m a fan of Van Gogh, but I thought this was one of the best museum exhibitions I’ve ever seen. The exhibition features drawings (as well as a few paintings) from his short 10-year career as an artist, and you can really see how much he progressed during that time and how much his drawings and paintings were related. I can’t wait to go back over to the MoMA and look at Starry Night and The Postman and view them not as paintings, but more as drawings done with paint.

Opening tomorrow at the Met Museum in

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 17, 2005

Opening tomorrow at the Met Museum in NYC, an exhibition of drawings by Vincent van Gogh. October 18, 2005 through December 31, 2005.

Astronomers have determined the precise location and

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2005

Astronomers have determined the precise location and time that Ansel Adams took a famous photograph of the moon in Yosemite National Park and are going to attempt to recreate the shot in September. The same forensic team has previously determined when Van Gogh painted “White House at Night”.

Photomosaic version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 06, 2005

Photomosaic version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The image is made up of over 210,000 individual photographs.