Watercolor Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh

Scheveningen Woman Etten: November-December, 1881 (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum)
Scheveningen Woman
Etten: November-December, 1881
(Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum)

“What a splendid thing watercolour is to express atmosphere and distance, so that the figure is surrounded by air and can breathe in it, as it were.” – Vincent van Gogh

Although Van Gogh’s watercolour paintings are not as well known as his oil paintings, he produced 148 watercolor paintings during his life and perfected this skill. His fondness in watercolour are very evident through his letters to his brother Theo. At the age of 28 Vincent wrote the following in a letter to his brother Theo in December 1888:

“I came away from him with some painted studies and a few watercolors. They are not masterpieces, of course, yet I really believe that there is some soundness and truth in them, more at any rate than what I’ve done up to now. And so I reckon that I am now at the beginning of the beginning of doing something serious. And because I can now call on a couple of technical resources, that is to say, paint and brush, everything seems fresh again, as it were.”

In the same letter he wrote:

“I wish you could see the two watercolors I have brought back with me, for you would realize that they are watercolors just like any other watercolours. They may still be full of imperfections, que soit, I am the first to say that I am still very dissatisfied with them, and yet they are quite different from what I have done before and look fresher and brighter. That doesn’t alter the fact, however, that they must get fresher and brighter still, but one can’t do everything one wants just like that. It will come little by little.”

Aside from drawing, Van Gogh often did watercolors as studies before doing an oil painting or as practice. Though often lacking his distinctive brush stroke textures, the watercolors are unmistakably Van Gogh in their use of bold, vibrant color. Often times, these watercolors were used as field studies for their eventual larger oil counterparts.

Initially, van Gogh would use watercolors to add shades to his drawings but the more he used them, the more these pieces became works of art in their own right. As Van Gogh continued to refine his technique, he used more and brighter colors in his watercolors. Over time he became more comfortable working with watercolors and was able to work quickly with them to produce more impressive works.

The watercolor paintings of Van Gohg distinguish themselves as a vibrant and important part of his overall oeuvre. Vincent Van Gogh‘s use of colour is, as always, marvelous and his watercolour works stand out as a remarkable achievement in the course of his constantly evolving art.

Image source:  www.vangoghgallery.com

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