Van Gogh Museum

‘I dream of painting and then paint my dream’

Art becomes art if it is different from anything that has been made before and if the painting, sculpture or photograph inspires people, making them happy or sad, creative or angry. Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous Dutch artists in history and perhaps the greatest painter of the 19th century. Unlike many of the artists of his time, he did not make a precise depiction of what he saw, but tried to express what he felt looking at nature and the people in front of him. ‘I dream of painting and then I paint my dream,’ he said. Van Gogh’s work is famous for the rather simple strokes of paint, the use of light and dark, and the bright or very sombre colours.

The painter did not have an easy life; he did not start painting until he was thirty and was not immediately popular. Of all his paintings, only one was sold during his lifetime. Yet he did not give up and tried to break through with new styles. Because he failed to do so, he barely had any money and had to seek refuge elsewhere in the Netherlands, England, France and Belgium. His brother, Theo, who was an art dealer and to whom he wrote letters almost every day, continued to believe in him and supported him where he could. But Vincent suffered from mental illness, cut off his own ear and eventually took his own life. 

Theo died shortly afterwards, but Theo’s wife and son (named after his uncle Vincent) dedicated themselves to making the world recognise Vincent’s genius. They succeeded and, eventually, the family gave the paintings to the city on condition that they would never be sold and would always be on display. 

In Van Gogh Museum you can now see his most famous paintings, including The Potato Eaters, Almond Blossom, several self-portraits and, of course, his Sunflowers. But there are also several letters on display 

in which he talks about his work, life and sources of inspiration.

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