Skip to content

Van Gogh 2015: 125 Years of Inspiration

Vincent van Gogh - The Sower

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are discussing the 2015 Art Outlook.  Check out all the stories below!

Van Gogh 2015If you’re like me, then you spend January contemplating where to go in the New Year.  Do you plan several small trips close to home, or is this the year of the big, adventure getaway?  While you think about that, let me try to tempt you with a few art pilgrimages options to see one of the greatest painters of Western Art – Vincent Van Gogh.  In honor of the 125th anniversary of his death this year, several superb museums in the Netherlands, Belgium, and France will be hosting events and exhibits celebrating his unique and visionary art.

Van Gogh portraits

(Left) Vincent Van Gogh – “Self-Portrait”, September 1889 (Musee D’Orsay, Paris); (Right) John Peter Russell – “Vincent van Gogh” 1886, believe to be the most realistic portrait of Van Gogh (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

After contemplating becoming a teacher or a preacher, Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) finally decided at age 27 to become an artist.  In just ten years of active work, he created an extensive and exquisite catalog of paintings that continues to inspire viewers today.

Applying thick coats of paint and using short fluids brush strokes, even Van Gogh’s still life and landscape paintings appear to dance and swirl.  Obsessed with color, his paintings are bold, bright, and elegantly composed, balancing complimentary hues in a single canvas.  For as valuable as his pieces are today. Van Gogh was a commercial failure during his lifetime.

Van Gogh 2015sites

Van Gogh 2015 participating sites (Source)

While almost every international art museum has a piece by Van Gogh, there is something magical about seeing his paintings in their original environment.  Van Gogh 2015 seeks to tell the story of Vincent Van Gogh in the towns and areas where he lived and worked.  From the bleak winter fields of the Netherlands and Belgium, to the blinding fertility and color of Southern France, you can still find these places today.  Van Gogh’s genius was to see these landscapes and interpret them with emotion and vigor unmatched by any artist before or since.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent van Gogh - Almond blossom

Japanese art newly arrived in Europe influenced Vincent van Gogh’s “Almond Blossom,” 1890 (Van Gogh Museum)

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is the ultimate stop for anyone who wants to learn more about Vincent.  They have an extensive collection of his pieces but more importantly, they do an excellent job interweaving the art with biographical details, Van Gogh’s artistic influences, and analysis of his pieces.

I visited an abbreviated version of the museum in the Spring of 2013 while it was undergoing renovations and was really impressed.  I particularly like the galleries dedicated Van Gogh’s exploration of Japanese woodblock design elements.  Their innovative approach to teaching about art can also be experienced with the very cool interactive exhibits on their website.

Vincent Van Gogh - wheatfield with crows

A haunting painting, “Wheatfield with Crows” was Van Gogh’s last painting before committing suicide. (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

The Van Gogh Museum will also be showing Munch : Van Gogh opening 25 Sept 2015 which is the first major exhibit comparing these two artists.  Given their innovative visual styles and psychological paintings, this should be an excellent addition to the Van Gogh 2015 celebration.

Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands

Vincent Van Gogh - Gebed voor de maaltijd (Prayer before meals)

Vincent Van Gogh – “Gebed voor de maaltijd (Prayer before meals)” 1882, pencil & watercolor, Kröller-Müller Museum.

The Kröller-Müller Museum has on display over 50 paintings and drawings by Van Gogh as well as works by his contemporaries to provide context and explore those artists which influenced him.  During the summer months (June to September), the museum will be hosting a food festival, a “Paint like Van Gogh” event, and music and theater performances inspired by Vincent.

Brabant Area, Netherlands

van gogh - vicarage garden

Vincent Van Gogh painted “Winter (The Vicarage Garden under Snow)” in Nuenen in 1885. (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA).  You might be able to find these trees and fence there today.

Vincent grew up and later returned to live with his family in the Brabant province, specifically in the villages of Zundert, Tilburg, and Nuenen.  Today this area has several museums dedicated to the life of Vincent Van Gogh.  Here are some highlights from the 2015 festivities:

Beaux-Arts Mons, Belgium

Vincent van Gogh - potato eaters

Vincent van Gogh’s famous image of peasant life “De Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters)” (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

Much of Van Gogh’s early work explored the peasant life he observed while living (1878-1880) in the Borinage area of Southern Belgium.  As part of their tenure as a 2015 European Capitol of Culture, the Fine Art Museum in Mons will be exhibiting pieces inspired by the region.  Additionally, two homes in nearby Cuesmes and Wasmes once occupied by van Gogh have also restored and opened to the public.

Southern France

vincent van gogh - Harvest at La Crau (The Blue Cart)

“Harvest at La Crau (The Blue Cart)” painted in Arles, June 1888. (Van Gogh Museum)

While the van Gogh museums in Southern France are small, it’s worth visiting Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence just for the ambiance.  Van Gogh only lived in year in each village but they inspired some of his most memorable paintings.  He envisioned the landscape in vivid complementary colors and often revisited the same scene painting multiple versions A true art pilgrimage would include walking through the olive tree groves, wheatfields, and churchyards that so moved Van Gogh.

More to explore…

To get all the details, check the Van Gogh Europe website or look for events in the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

I hope you can make it to one or more of these exhibits and events.  You’ll no doubt find a greater appreciation for this dynamic artist. Plus, you never know who you might run into…

Van Gogh tweet

Le Tambourin is the cafe at the Van Gogh Museum. They tweeted this photo of a seemingly very familiar looking museum visitor…

For the rest of the January ArtSmart Roundtable, check out:

And don’t forget to “like” our group on Facebook for art & travel news!

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. lesleypeterson #

    Thanks for this, Christina! The Kroller-Muller is a favorite museum of mine, both for the collection and the lovely forest setting. A must-read for anyone on the Vincent trail is Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. This 2012 bio is both comprehensive and entertaining. Highly recommend!


    January 7, 2015
    • Thanks Lesley! I’ve never been to the Kroller-Muller but its definitely on my list. I’ve been meaning to read that biography as well but keep putting it off because its ~800 pages long 🙂 Someday soon….


      January 12, 2015
  2. Yes the Van Gogh Museum is a great place. As first time visitors to Amsterdam we made the right choice of spending a fair part of a day in and around this fantastic museum.


    January 11, 2015
    • Great! I’m glad you had a wonderful visit to the Van Gogh Museum!


      January 12, 2015
  3. Heather Hall #

    Thanks for posting this, Christina! I’m heading to Paris in a few months and will definitely check out the special events being held there. Van Gogh is a favorite artist of mine!


    February 2, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: