Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) is one of the most famous figures in art history. Despite a tragically cut career and lack of recognition during his lifetime, his paintings are now regarded as some of the most beautiful works of art ever created.
2 years ago the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum won the Best Museum award in the World’s Outstanding Venue Awards (receiving over 6,000 votes), now is the time to explore Vincent van Gogh famous paintings. From starry nights to beautiful sunflowers, here’s a guide to Van Gogh’s most famous paintings and their features.
Starry Night (1889)
Any list of Van Gogh’s most well-known works is likely to start and end with The Starry Night. You’ll find it on posters, novelty socks, bags, computer backgrounds, tattoos on your arms – you name it. You’ll also find it on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it’s one of the most eye-catching pieces in the museum (which is saying a lot considering the number of other amazing paintings in the MoMA collection).
The Starry Night isn’t just one of Van Gogh’s most popular paintings; it is one of the most iconic works of art in existence. His spectacular swirling night sky filled with Expressionist spirals continues to evoke strong emotional responses from viewers to this day.
What Is a Backstory?
Although this post is about Van Gogh’s famous paintings and not the artist’s biography, his life cannot be ignored when you write about his art. Van Gogh voluntarily checked himself into a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in 1889, a few months after the infamous episode in which he mutilated his left ear. This painting was based on the view from his window at the orphanage.
Some art historians speculate that the painting was created in an agitated state, which is reflected in the almost hallucinatory nature of the work and potentially reinforced by the fact that Van Gogh experienced a second breakdown just a month later. Starry Night has been fulfilled.
Starry Night over the Rhone (1888)
The first artwork on this list is often what people refer to when they mention Starry Night, but they may also mean Starry Night over the Rhone. Likewise striking in its depiction of the night sky (albeit with fewer spirals), this painting has a slightly more peaceful feel than its counterpart but has the classic color palette that Van Gogh became known for.
What Is a Backstory?
Van Gogh seems to have been particularly fascinated by the night sky and the gaslight visible across the water at Arles. He was excited enough by this painting to give it to his friend, the painter Eugène Boch, as a sketch, and the work was publicly exhibited in 1889 at the Société des Artistes Indépendants in Paris.
He also described the painting in almost loving detail in one of the many letters he wrote to his brother Theo, describing it as ‘…a starry sky painted at night, actually under a puff of gas. The sky is aquamarine, the water is royal blue, and the earth is mauve. The city is blue and purple. The gas is yellow, and the reflections are red-gold, fading to green-bronze. The Big Dipper is a shimmering green-pink against the blue sky, and its subdued pallor contrasts with the harsh yellow of the gas. In the foreground are two colorful figurines of lovers.’
If you are inspired by these two most famous paintings of Van Gogh, find the museum with his masterpieces and book your visit now!