10 Unknown Facts About Van Gogh Paintings

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most famous artists in history. A lot of us know the basic facts about Van Gogh. He was a post-Impressionist painter with a distinct, one-of-a-kind style but there’s so much more behind the man behind the canvas. It’s worth taking a look at some of the things about Van Gogh that you may not have heard before. This way, you’ll know a deeper story when you buy oil paintings online by him.

1. He Only Sold One Painting

Today, it’s not uncommon to see reproductions of the Starry Night artwork on a nearly daily basis. However, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, Van Gogh didn’t see any of the fame he had today during his lifetime.

He only ever sold one painting in his lifetime named The Red Vineyard. Today, this is among one of the most famous oil paintings. When he was alive, he sold the painting to another Impressionist painter Anna Boch for 400 Francs or about $2,000 today.

2.  He Didn’t Paint Until He Was 27

Most of the famous painters of yesteryear showed signs of their passion early in life. Van Gogh, on the other hand, didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old. Since Van Gogh completed so many different painting on canvas pieces in his lifetime, we’ve had the unique chance to see his artwork from the beginning of his career to the end.

His earlier work had a much duller palette than his later portfolio and often focused on the poverty in the world around him. The Poor and the Money is a good sample from his early repertoire.

3. There Is an Unusually Large Collection of Art

For an artist that had such a comparatively short career, Van Gogh left quite the collection behind. By the end of his life, he’d been painting for 10 years and produced 2,100 pieces of art. Out of these, 860 of which were oil paintings.

This is considered especially impressive since he faced plenty of hardship as a person and thus as an artist. He spent much of his life struggling with severe mental illness and poverty, so it’s impressive that we have such a large body of his work available.

Since he started painting when he was 27 and committed suicide when he was 37, this adds up to around 4 pieces of art every week!

4. The Story Behind Starry Night

When many of us look at the Starry Night painting, we see undeniable beauty. We can put ourselves right into that field and imagine looking up at Van Gogh’s stars.

In truth, this level of freedom wasn’t necessarily the story behind this piece of art. Van Gogh admitted himself to the Saint-Remy-de-Provence insane asylum in 1889 and created a lot of his work during this time. Starry Night was inspired by the view he had from his barred window.

5. He Was the Master of Self-Portraits

Self-portraits aren’t uncommon throughout history but it isn’t often we see them in the volume that Van Gogh created. Between 1886 and 1889, he painted more than 40 portraits of himself.

This wasn’t something that was done out of vanity either. In this area, once again, Van Gogh was limited by money. He couldn’t afford to hire models, so he often used his own reflection for portraits. Even his portraits of others were usually of friends such as his portrait of the artist Paul Gauguin.

6. He Created One of the Most Expensive Pieces of Art

While he may not have made much in his lifetime, Van Gogh actually created one of the most expensive paintings ever sold. His painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet was done in 1890 while Van Gogh languished in relative obscurity and poverty.

He made two versions of the painting. Both featured the subject in the same pose but the first version was far more colorful. One hundred years later, in 1990, the second version of the painting sold for $82.5 million.


7. His Style Wasn’t Appreciated By All


Van Gogh has a very distinctive style that is praised today for its beauty and flair. While he was alive, this wasn’t the case.

While he was self-taught, the artist did try to get some technical training near the end of his life by attending art school. This attempt didn’t last long and this is in large part due to his unsuccessful time there. He was often criticized for his style which was even more unique at the time than it is today.

8. His Paintings Were Used as Funeral Favors

The artist died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He spent his last 30 hours with his brother Theo and his last words were “The sadness will last forever.”

After he passed away, Theo and his wife planned a funeral and invited Van Gogh’s limited circle of friends. During the funeral, they were allowed to take a painting from the artist’s collection to remember him by. His therapist was the only one who took more than one as he was allowed to grab as many as he could carry.

9. Yellow Themes

In the modern era, Van Gogh’s art is known for its heavy use of the color yellow. This is a bit of a misleading observation, though. The pigment of this color is very unstable by design and doesn’t age well. As such, we don’t know for sure what these colors were originally.

10. We Got a Sneak Peek at His Processes


Interestingly, we get the chance to see both the planning and finished products for many of his pieces. He often wrote to his brother Theo and there are records of over 800 letters. Many of these had sketches of future works.

Van Gogh was legendary and he deserves all of the admiration his art has gotten since his death. To truly appreciate his art, though, it’s important to remember the story behind it.

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