Download Hundreds of Van Gogh Paintings, Sketches & Letters in High Resolution

VG Self Portrait 1887

As a cal­low young art stu­dent in high school, I dear­ly want­ed, and tried, to see the world with the same furi­ous inten­si­ty as Vin­cent van Gogh, and to cap­ture that kind of vision on paper and can­vas. I lat­er real­ized with cha­grin as I stood in a line sev­er­al blocks long for a wild­ly pop­u­lar exhib­it (Van Gogh’s Van Goghs at the Nation­al Gallery of Art) that I was but one of mil­lions who want­ed to see the world through Van Gogh’s eyes.

After wait­ing for what seemed like for­ev­er, not only could I bare­ly get a glimpse of any of the paint­ings through the scrum of tourists and gawk­ers, but I felt—in my pro­tec­tive bub­ble of Van Gogh veneration—that these peo­ple couldn’t pos­si­bly get Van Gogh the way I got Van Gogh.

VG Portrait of Theo

Well, every­body has their own ver­sion of Van Gogh, per­haps, but one I’ve out­grown is the mad, mag­i­cal genius whose men­tal ill­ness act­ed as a trag­ic but nec­es­sary con­di­tion for his tran­scen­dent­ly pas­sion­ate work. Maybe it’s age and some famil­iar­i­ty with life’s hard­ship, but I no longer roman­ti­cize Van Gogh’s suf­fer­ing. And per­haps a more real­is­tic view of what was like­ly debil­i­tat­ing bipo­lar dis­or­der has giv­en me an even greater appre­ci­a­tion for his accom­plish­ments. Dur­ing the brief 10-year peri­od that Van Gogh pur­sued his art, he was as ded­i­cat­ed as it’s pos­si­ble to be—producing near­ly 900 can­vas­es and over 1,100 works on paper, and alter­ing the way we see the world, all while expe­ri­enc­ing severe­ly crip­pling bouts of depres­sion, anx­i­ety, and self doubt; hav­ing his neigh­bors ostra­cize and evict him from his home; and spend­ing most of his final year in an insti­tu­tion.

VG Head of a Skeleton

Sad­ly, he felt him­self a medi­oc­rity at best, a fail­ure at worst. As the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art writes, “in 1890,” the final year of his life, “he mod­est­ly assessed his artis­tic lega­cy as of ‘very sec­ondary’ impor­tance.” (This despite the appre­ci­a­tion he’d begun to receive from sev­er­al gallery show­ings.) The posthu­mous recep­tion of his work—ubiquitously repro­duced and admired by count­less throngs in exhib­it after exhibit—can do noth­ing now to lift his spir­its, but sure­ly vin­di­cates his prodi­gious effort. Van Gogh’s fame has had the unfor­tu­nate side effect of crowd­ing out many stu­dents of his art from gallery exhi­bi­tions. Yet this dif­fi­cul­ty need not now pre­vent them from sur­vey­ing and see­ing up close his huge body of work in dig­i­tal archives like that of the Van Gogh Muse­um in Ams­ter­dam, the largest Van Gogh col­lec­tion in the world.

VG Letter to Theo with Willow

By enter­ing the col­lec­tion, you can see, for exam­ple, Self Por­trait with Straw Hat, at the top, from 1887, or the strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar por­trait of his broth­er and staunch sup­port­er Theo from the same year, just below it. Fur­ther down is the dark­ly humor­ous Head of a Skele­ton With a Burn­ing Cig­a­rette from 1886, and just above, see an 1882 let­ter to Theo, with a beau­ti­ful sketch of a Pol­lard Wil­low, an image he com­mit­ted to can­vas that year. Just below, see an inter­est­ing exam­ple of the very begin­nings of Van Gogh’s posthu­mous canonization—an 1891 cov­er sketch and short trib­ute arti­cle in the French satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Les hommes D’Aujourd’hui.

VG Les Hommes cover

You can search or browse the col­lec­tion, and down­load and view these images, and many hun­dreds more paint­ings, sketch­es, draw­ings, let­ters, and much more, in res­o­lu­tion high enough to zoom in to every indi­vid­ual brush­stroke and ink pen flour­ish. [When you click on an image in the col­lec­tion, look for the down arrow ↓ that lets you start a down­load.] Miss­ing from the expe­ri­ence is the three-dimen­sion­al­i­ty of Van Gogh’s heav­i­ly tex­tur­al paint­ing, but nowhere else will you have this lev­el of acces­si­bil­i­ty to so much of his work and life.

VG Head of a Woman

And if you feel, as I once did, a need to get inside that life and walk around a bit, a new Art Insti­tute of Chica­go exhib­it will allow you to do just that, with a three-dimen­sion­al recre­ation of his paint­ing The Bed­room, includ­ing, writes This is Colos­sal, “all the details of the orig­i­nal paint­ing, arranged in hap­haz­ard align­ment to imi­tate the orig­i­nal room.” (The more mor­bid­ly curi­ous can see a liv­ing repli­ca of his infa­mous ear, recre­at­ed using his own DNA.) The room went up for rent on AirBnB yes­ter­day. Best of luck get­ting a reser­va­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Van Gogh’s 1888 Paint­ing, “The Night Cafe,” Ani­mat­ed with Ocu­lus Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Soft­ware

The Unex­pect­ed Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Star­ry Night”

Artist Turns a Crop Field Into a Van Gogh Paint­ing, Seen Only From Air­planes

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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