Nearly 1,000 Paintings & Drawings by Vincent van Gogh Now Digitized and Put Online: View/Download the Collection

Every artist explores dimen­sions of space and place, ori­ent­ing them­selves and their works in the world, and ori­ent­ing their audi­ences. Then there are artists like Vin­cent van Gogh, who make space and place a pri­ma­ry sub­ject. In his ear­ly paint­ings of peas­ant homes and fields, his fig­ures’ mus­cu­lar shoul­ders and hands inter­act with stur­dy walls and gnarled trees. Lat­er coun­try scenes—whether curl­ing and del­i­cate, like Wheat­field with a Reaper, or heavy and omi­nous, like Wheat­field with Crows (both below)—give us the sense of the land­scape as a sin­gle liv­ing enti­ty, pul­sat­ing, writhing, blaz­ing in bril­liant yel­lows, reds, greens, and blues.

Van Gogh paint­ed inte­ri­or scenes, such as his famous The Bed­room, at the top (the first of three ver­sions), with an eye toward using col­or as the means of mak­ing space pur­pose­ful: “It’s just sim­ply my bed­room,” he wrote to Paul Gau­guin of the 1888 paint­ing, “only here col­or is to do every­thing… to be sug­ges­tive here of rest or of sleep in gen­er­al. In a word, look­ing at the pic­ture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imag­i­na­tion.”

So tak­en was the painter with the con­cept of using col­or to induce “rest or sleep” in his view­ers’ imag­i­na­tions that when water dam­age threat­ed the “sta­bil­i­ty” of the first paint­ing, Chicago’s Art Insti­tute notes, “he became deter­mined to pre­serve the com­po­si­tion by paint­ing a sec­ond ver­sion while at an asy­lum in Saint-Rémy in 1889,” then demon­strat­ed the deep emo­tion­al res­o­nance this scene had for him by paint­ing a third, small­er ver­sion for his moth­er and sis­ter.

The oppor­tu­ni­ty to see all of Van Gogh’s bed­room paint­ings in one place may have passed us by for now—an exhib­it in Chica­go brought them togeth­er in 2016. But we can see the orig­i­nal bed­room at the yel­low house in Arles in a vir­tu­al space, along with almost 1,000 more Van Gogh paint­ings and draw­ings, at the Van Gogh Muse­um in Ams­ter­dam’s site. The dig­i­tized col­lec­tion show­cas­es a vast amount of Van Gogh’s work—including not only land­scapes, but also his many por­traits, self-por­traits, draw­ings, city scenes, and still-lifes.

One way to approach these works is through the uni­fy­ing themes above: how does van Gogh use col­or to com­mu­ni­cate space and place, and to what effect? Even in por­traits and still-lifes, his fig­ures com­pete with the ground. The scored and scal­loped paint­ings of walls, floors, and wall­pa­per force our atten­tion past the star­ing eyes of the painter or the fine­ly-ren­dered fruits and shoes, and into the depths and tex­tures of shad­ow and light. We begin to see peo­ple and objects as insep­a­ra­ble from their sur­round­ings.

“Paint­ing is a faith,” Van Gogh once wrote, and it is as if his paint­ings ask us to con­tem­plate the spir­i­tu­al uni­ty of all things; the same ani­mat­ing flame brings every object in his blaz­ing worlds to life. The Van Gogh Muse­um hous­es the largest col­lec­tion of the artist’s work in the world. On their web­site you can read essays about his life and work, plan a vis­it, or shop at the online store. But most impor­tant­ly, you can expe­ri­ence the stun­ning breadth of his art through your screen—no replace­ment for the phys­i­cal spaces of gal­leries, but a wor­thy means nonethe­less of com­muning with Van Gogh’s vision.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

2,000+ Impres­sion­ist, Post-impres­sion­ist & Ear­ly Mod­ern Paint­ings Now Free Online, Thanks to the Barnes Foun­da­tion

Simon Schama Presents Van Gogh and the Begin­ning of Mod­ern Art

New Ani­mat­ed Film About Vin­cent Van Gogh Will Be Made Out of 65,000 Van Gogh-Style Paint­ings: Watch the Trail­er and Mak­ing-Of Video

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

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