Vincent van Gogh only started painting at the age of twenty-seven, and he died young. During the last ten years of his life, he created around nine hundred paintings. He had a tendency to become obsessed with his subjects and painted them repeatedly over some time. With his highly personal and individual style, he was one of the most influential artists of post-impressionism and of all time. Here are four of his most famous and well-loved paintings, presented in chronological order.
The Potato Eaters
This painting was created during van Gogh’s so-called Dutch period in April 1885. It shows a family of peasants sitting around a table, eating potatoes by the light of a lamp. The painting is kept in the dark, monotone colour scheme, reminiscent of Rembrandt. Van Gogh spent about two years doing studies and sketches, before completing the painting, which is seen as his first masterpiece.
Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers
Having encountered the Impressionists in Paris, van Gogh abandoned the dark colour schemes of his Dutch period and created two series of bright sunflower paintings. The first series was completed in 1887 during his time in Paris and showed cut sunflowers lying on the ground. During the following year, van Gogh moved into the so-called yellow house in Arles, where he began painting a further seven still lifes of sunflowers in vases. Three of these paintings were done exclusively in shades of yellow. They included a hue of yellow, that was entirely new for van Gogh’s colour palette. The Arles sunflower series was created in preparation for the arrival of Paul Gauguin, with whom van Gogh had hoped to start an artists community in the yellow house.
Café Terrace at Night
Van Gogh painted several nocturnal scenes during his formative period, one of the most famous ones being a painting from 1888 which shows the terrace of a café at the Place du Forum in Arles at night. Although it is a night-time painting, there is no use of black, but the yellow awning of the café terrace is set against the Persian blue of the starry night sky. The cobbles are reminiscent of stained glass windows. Van Gogh felt inspired by the challenge of creating light from darkness and his nocturnal paintings express a sense of the infinite. This first celestial night painting was followed a year later by van Gogh’s most famous painting “The Starry Night”, which was created during his time in the asylum.
The Red Vineyards at Arles
This painting from November 1888 was the only painting which was sold during van Gogh’s lifetime. It was bought for four hundred Francs (around eight hundred pounds sterling) by the art collector Anna Boch, who was an impressionist painter herself. The painting captures the vibrant colours of a vineyard in the south of France in November.