van Gogh, "Self Portrait,"Autumn 1887. Musée d'Orsay in Paris

The Genius of Van Gogh

A tortured soul, Vincent van Gogh was a unique artist who worked with a sense of urgency which often caused him a great deal of stress. Largely self-taught, van Gogh started his career copying prints and reading nineteenth-century drawing manuals and books. With his signature technique growing out of the idea that to be a great painter, you had to master drawing first. Thus van Gogh felt it was necessary to master black and white before working with color, and so he focused on learning the essentials of figure drawing and depicting landscapes in correct perspective.

Comparison of Early and Later Styles

It was during this formative time and after that Van Gogh completed over 1,000 drawings in total and produced nearly 150 watercolor paintings during his lifetime. Interestingly, many people consider Van Gogh's letters to be another form of artwork because they include sketches of works that he was focusing on at that time or had just finished. What these sketches are is proof of van Gogh's growth as an artist, showing the fascinating progression of his masterpieces.

The beauty in van Gogh’s masterpieces lie in his technique of deliberately using colors to capture mood, rather than using colors realistically. No other artist was doing this at this time; "Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of color to express myself more forcefully." He achieved fame long after his death and is one of the most recognizable artists in the world, which is why we celebrate him today and the influence he has had on countless generations of artists and viewers.