Vincent Van Gogh, born in the Netherlands in 1853, was a post-impressionist painter, whose work has since accumulated much appreciation for the emotive response it provokes. Van Gogh worked both as an art dealer and a preacher before deciding to move to Brussels and become an artist. Having first been enlightened by the impressionist movement when he moved to Paris in March 1886, his particular interest in the colour and light of Impressionism shaped the birth of his own distinctive style. He completed more than 2,100 works, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 sketches and watercolours.


I was particularly engaged by ‘Farms near Auvres’ which he completed in 1890, shortly before his death. Awareness of the severity of Van Gogh’s mental health at this time provokes a greater appreciation for the evocative melancholia of his artwork, as his later pieces are underlined by the sobering realities of his struggle. I was also intrigued by his earlier works, including ‘Potato Eaters’ which he began work on in 1885. This piece fascinated me as it allows for observation of the development of his own unique style, which was shaped by merging of the Impressionist movement with the need for personal expression in a time of mental conflict. However, I found his later works, which are symbolic of his somber concern for life, more engaging because his expression is so intimate and yet so universally appreciated. 


The Van Gogh exhibition at Tate Britain is in two parts. The first explores his experiences in London, revealing how British Literature and art influenced his artistic journey. The second presents the impact of Van Gogh’s art on British artists up to the 1950s, particularly by those who were truly inspired by the personality of Van Gogh’s artistic expression. The exhibition provides both the opportunity to observe British culture through the eyes of Van Gogh and to appreciate him through the eyes of the British artists he inspired. The exhibition reflects on the tumultuous journey of Van Gogh’s life by guiding the observer along the chronology of his works, evoking appreciation for the emotional and artistic progression of his pieces. This, therefore, enhances the viewers’ admiration of Van Gogh as they experience firsthand the poignant expressions of one of the most recognised and appreciated artists that ever lived. 

Mary Walters