Invaluable Sources of Inspiration of Vincent Van Gogh

by hr forhad

Invaluable Sources of Inspiration of Vincent Van Gogh

When we see artworks of an artist, it’s always interesting to learn more about their inspirations and what moved them artistically. Vincent van Gogh is a 19th-Century Dutch painter who became one of the most praised and well-known artists of all time. All van Gogh paintings carry the vibrancy of an intense artist. This article shed light on some of the most significant influences of the Post-Impressionist painter.

Vincent van Gogh – Self Portrait III

Genre Paintings and Jean-Francois Millet

During his early career, which started when he was 27 years old, van Gogh’s art is clearly influenced by genre and Realist paintings and their depiction of the lives of working people. It was around that time the artist created his famous “The Potato Eaters,” one of the most important early Vincent van Gogh paintings. During this period, van Gogh also created several paintings as portraits of peasants, whom he saw as honorable people.


Van Gogh was especially drawn to the works of Jean-Francois Millet and his sensible representations of peasants. Indeed, later in his life, van Gogh recreated several artworks by Millet.


His paintings still carried the somber and earthy color palette proper of more traditional Dutch genre paintings; the artist was still to develop the colorful style he is best known for. Notable van Gogh pieces from this period also include “Girl in the Woods,” “Fisherman’s Wife on the Beach,” and “The Sower,” the latter after Millet.


Japanese Woodblocks

During the 1800s, Japanese prints, known as Ukyio-e, began to permeate Europe; they were used in the packaging of imported products coming from Japan. Soon, these artworks caught the attention of artists, who became entranced by their compositions and colors, Impressionist artists especially. They were especially captivated by the simplified execution of these artworks, giving up realism and depth in favor of a more aesthetic final result.

Artists such as Mary Cassat, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gaugin, among others, would incorporate elements from Ukiyo-e art into their own style. Indeed, Monet had an impressive collection of woodblock prints and would even take this inspiration to create his famous garden in Giverny. This influence of Japanese art on European art is known as Japonisme. Van Gogh used the term Japonaiserie to refer to this influence.


Van Gogh pictures that show this influence include “Courtesan,” “Portrait of Pere Tanguy,” “Flowering Plum Tree,” and “The Bridge in the Rain .”The last two are directly inspired by the works of Utagawa Hiroshige. Here, we begin to notice the use of the smaller brushstrokes and vibrant color typical of his works.

Paul Gauguin

In 1887, while living in Paris, van Gogh took part in an exhibition alongside Louis Anquetin, Emile Bernard, and probably Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. There, he exchanged artworks with Paul Gauguin and so became a fruitful but tragic relationship.

Soon, tired from the agitated life of Paris, van Gogh decided to move to the small city of Arles. There, the Dutch painter decided to create an artist colony. Becoming a fan of his works, van Gogh invited Gauguin to join him in Arles, where they could paint together and inspire each other; van Gogh saw in Gauguin, a possible leader in this colony. Before Gauguin’s arrival, van Gogh painted several pieces of his famous Sunflowers series, intended to decorate their studio.


Even though Gauguin stayed shortly in Arles, it was enough to notice their artistic influences on each other. Gauguin instructed van Gogh to paint from memory, which resulted in less realistic and more spontaneous use of form. Gauguin, on the other hand, began to employ thicker brushstrokes typical of van Gogh pictures.


Sadly, however, this friendship also created great distraught. Van Gogh and Gauguin quarreled constantly, and on a fateful night after a fight, an enraged van Gogh allegedly chased his friend with a knife and ultimately cut part of his own earlobe.

Vincent van Gogh – Still Life with Sunflowers


Nature and People Around Him


Van Gogh loved to paint the world around him and was inspired by each city he visited. He created many beautiful landscapes of those places and portraits of people who lived there. Some interesting portraits by van Gogh are his “The Postman Joseph Roulin,” also depicting the rest of the Roulin family; “Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which was once the most expensive artworks ever sold;


Some noteworthy van Gogh pieces depicting places where the artist has been are “The Iron Mill in The Hague,” “Autumn Landscape” in Neuen, “The Red Vineyard at Arles,” and the famous “Starry Night” in Saint-Remy.



One of van Gogh’s main artistic references was also himself. In all places he’s been, van Gogh loved to create portraits of people around him, often hiring people on the streets to pose for him. However, due to his mental instability, the artist was often a social outcast, and people avoided him. He often found himself admitted to hospitals and asylums, sometimes in isolation. Therefore, his last resort to painting human figures was to depict himself. Indeed, self-portraits became some of the most famous van Gogh paintings, showing the psychological complexity of the artist.



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