1,500 Paintings & Drawings by Vincent van Gogh Have Been Digitized & Put Online

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 threat­ened 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 1,500 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.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2018.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vin­cent van Gogh Vis­its a Mod­ern Art Gallery & Gets to See His Artis­tic Lega­cy: A Touch­ing Scene from Doc­tor Who

Expe­ri­ence the Van Gogh Muse­um in 4K Res­o­lu­tion: A Video Tour in Sev­en Parts

Vin­cent Van Gogh’s Self Por­traits: Explore & Down­load a Col­lec­tion of 17 Paint­ings Free Online

Vin­cent Van Gogh’s “The Star­ry Night”: Why It’s a Great Paint­ing in 15 Min­utes

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

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Harley goff says:

    Ver­ry beau­ti­ful pic­tures. I haft the 4th piture but for­get itz name Dat Vin­cent gave it. And I haft the wheat sow­er which is the 6th pic­ture in thiz post ‚the­ses pic­tures Dat I haft are Tha werk­ing pic­tures, they waz wat Vin­cent did first before paint­ing and draw­ing the larg­er more famous paint­ing s mine are on papi­er with Gouche ‚instead of oil. They sur­prise me that they haft sur­vived Tha tur­bu­lent 130 +years of time since they waz drawn and,painted by Vin­cent him­self.

  • Robert W Tucker says:

    There is some­thing mag­net­ic about Vin­cent van Gogh’s paint­ings that lies beyond my abil­i­ty to express it. I first felt it as a young child and it per­sists undi­min­ished into my sev­enth decade.

  • Alicia P. Mogollón says:

    Oh this is won­der­ful, I tell you I don’t usu­al­ly have dream jobs because I try not to dream of labor but this might be one, because I think I would find it so thrilling to dig­i­tize old works. I’ve s scanned and voice typed writ­ten works and pho­tographed art­work and not only do I enjoy doing it, it feels like it’s some­thing impor­tant for soci­ety, I know with old works like this it would feel that much more so.

  • Julie Miesen says:

    How can I buy a Cat­a­logue of this exhi­bi­tion?
    And is it pos­si­ble to have one mailed to me in Aus­tralia?
    Please let me know.
    Address details- Mrs Julie Miesen
    91 Anzac Avenue,
    AUSTRALIA 4020.
    I can pay by Pay­Pal or Bank Trans­fer with your details…

  • Walterrean Salley says:

    This exhib­it is immense­ly encour­ag­ing to the con­tem­po­rary (mod­ern) artist, on so many lev­els. Love it! Thanks for the dis­play. ❤️

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.