Artist Highlight: Vincent van Gogh
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Vincent van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists to have ever lived, but in his own lifetime he was considered something of a failure. While alive, he had difficulty finding buyers for his paintings and was financially supported instead by his brother Theo. This might feel somewhat hard to believe nowadays when we’re used to seeing his works on display in museums next to plaques explaining their great significance to the art world, but Van Gogh’s fame only came about posthumously.
Van Gogh was born on March 30th, 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. He spent much of his early career as a painter drawing and painting the downtrodden, particularly coal miners. Even later, when his paintings became brighter and more vibrant, he still liked painting people at work. We traveled across Europe, perhaps most famously to France. He struggled with his mental health throughout his life, painting many of his most famous works during his stay in an asylum, before eventually taking his own life in July of 1890.
Vincent van Gogh, the man behind the art, can be challenging to discuss with children due to the sad way his life ended. The rebooted British children’s show Doctor Who has an episode in its fifth season (aptly titled Vincent and the Doctor) which shows Van Gogh’s illness in a gentle and sympathetic light that may help with contextualizing these issues for kids (we do recommend that parents view the episode first, before deciding if it is right for their families). Its time travel concept also allows for the inclusion of a beautiful moment of wish fulfillment, since one of the great tragedies of Van Gogh’s life is that he never knew that his art would one day be considered essential viewing for the art lover.
But even if your kids aren’t ready for the details of his life, you can still bust out the art books this month and enjoy the riot of colors and the uniquely expressive beauty of Vincent van Gogh’s artwork.
Vincent’s Colors – “Van Gogh’s descriptions, arranged as a simple rhyme, introduce young readers to all the colors of the rainbow and beyond.”–Amazon
Vincent and the Doctor – Doctor Who episode in which the Doctor and Amy Pond travel back in time to meet Vincent van Gogh
Art Appreciation Through Projects and Stories – From notbefore7 (includes Van Gogh and other artists)