This is Vincent van Gogh. He is one of the world’s most famous painters in history! Most people today know who he is and can recognize his paintings. When he was alive, however, he was not famous at all. He painted in a unique and recognizable style. He used his brush so you can see all of his individual stokes, and his paint was thick and layered. He made more than 2,000 works of art in his lifetime!
Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands in Europe. Can you find the Netherlands on a map or globe?
In his early adulthood, he had been a teacher, a shop assistant and a missionary. He was inspired to become an artist at age 27. He did a lot of traveling in his life. He visited France, Belgium and England. His travels inspired him, he got to see new landscapes and famous works of art in galleries!
Vincent’s brother, Theo, worked in an art gallery and introduced Van Gogh to many artworks. He was interested in painters who were painting everyday life.
Have you ever seen this painting? It is one of van Gogh's most famous! Starry Night was painted in 1889, when Van Gogh was admitted to a hospital in France for his mental health. While living there, he liked to paint, read, and spend time his room. He even had an art studio there to help him recover from his paranoia and anxiety.
While he was there, there was a change in his artwork. He began to use much darker color than usual. Starry Night is a great example of this! He mostly used mostly dark blues swirling through the night sky. The little village, set in the foreground, is painted in blues as well, but also in browns and grays.
Look at how the sky swirls, and how each dab of color swirls with the clouds around the stars and moon. It looks like a dream! Can you imagine these strokes moving around the sky?
What do you see below? A quiet, sleepy village is there, with windows glowing in the night. These lines are all straight and short, unlike the swirling lines in the sky.
Van Gogh often wrote letters to his brother, Theo. He once wrote: "This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big."
Today, you will create your own Starry Night in a fun, new way!
- Thick paper, the larger the better!
- Paint in 3-5 colors. You will need to use quite a bit of paint since the paint will be applied thickly, so cheap acrylic paint will work just fine.
- Paint trays, or you can use a paper plate or old egg carton!
- Brushes, paper towel, water cup
- Painter's tape (to tape down the paper)
- Dinner fork (A plastic one works great!)
Sketch what you want your painting to look like with your pencil. I did hills, a cypress tree, a moon, and then a few circles for the stars!
Use your brush to start filling in your sketch with color. Make your brushstrokes thick and imitate Van Gogh's style.
After you have a good amount of paint on your paper, start using your fork to make some textured lines. Drag the prongs through the paint in swirls. Add more paint as you go if you need to.
Try making straight lines, short wavy lines and long curvy lines with your fork!
Let your painting fully dry. (This might take a while.) When it's dry, carefully remove the painter's tape.
You have your own Van Gogh, ready to hang!
Thank you for learning with us today!
Come back tomorrow!
- The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 35