Research in progress: Van Gogh and his contemporaries



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Meet Van Gogh's contemporaries
In addition to work by Van Gogh, the Van Gogh Museum has a rich and varied collection of works by other 19th-century artists, including Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Among them Van Gogh’s friends and contemporaries, those who inspired him, and those who drew inspiration from him.

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How did he do it?
Vincent van Gogh experimented with different materials and techniques in his drawings and paintings. The research project 'Van Gogh's studio practice in context' was launched in 2005 to examine Van Gogh's way of working and how this related to that of his contemporaries.

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Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. Read the full Wikipedia article.

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What are those research techniques?
What is microscopy, raking light, X-radiography and ultraviolet light? The glossary explains the research techniques that are demonstrated in this video and that are being used in the research project.

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Painting outdoors
"En plein air" is a French expression which means "in the open air". Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism.

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Visit Van Gogh's Paris
In the summer of 1887 Van Gogh often worked on the banks of the Seine at Asnières, a suburb of Paris.

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Meet Monet's Amsterdam
Monet visited Amsterdam in 1874 and recorded more than 12 impressions like 'View of the Prins Hendrikkade and the Kromme Waal in Amsterdam'.

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Vincent van Gogh has a reputation of being a loner as an artist, but is that correct? In his letters he gave his opinion on works of art he had seen and books he’d found worth-while. That is why in the restoration studio of the Van Gogh Museum not only Van Gogh’s own materials and techniques are studied, but also the work of his contemporaries.

The Van Gogh Museum has been conducting exhaustive technical research into the paintings and drawings by Vincent van Gogh in its collection for many years now. In this video you'll get a behind the scenes look of the research. For more information about the research project 'Van Gogh's studio practice in context', please visit:

It's highly informative and professional)) Thanks a lot! :)

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The Van Gogh Museum has been conducting exhaustive technical research into the paintings and drawings by Vincent van Gogh in its collection for many years now. In this video you'll get a behind the scenes look of the research. : thanks a lot

Hi Scott,

Thank you for your comment on the video. To answer your questions: collapsible tube paints were available by the time Van Gogh had decided to become an artist. They were invented in the 1840s.
Van Gogh, particularly in his later works, does indeed use an incredible amount of paint. The quantity of paint does not directly effect the preservation of the object. That being said however, if the work of art is mishandled the impasto can be damaged. That is one of the reasons we put glass in front of the paintings. It has been known that before the works were glazed visitors would sometimes pick off bits of impastoed paint as souvenirs! It has been noted on examination of these paintings that impastoed paint has chipped off if for example, the work has been brush varnished in the past (usually by a restorer). Flattening of the impasto is also relatively common, especially on those works that may have undergone a severe wax-resin lining.

It is also interesting to note that when Van Gogh sent some of his works to his brother Theo, the paint was still wet and flattening was caused by him stacking one painting on top of another! If you look really closely at some areas of impasto you can actually see the canvas imprint from the reverse of the painting placed on top of it!!
Van Gogh was not the only artist who excessively used thick paint application, you should look at the works of Mancini for example!

We hope that this answers your questions.
Many thanks for your interest.

Devi Ormond (paintings conservator, Van Gogh Museum)
Edith Schreurs (digital communication, Van Gogh Museum)

Very informative video. I assumed paint dispensed in tubes was not yet available during Van Gogh's period. I wonder when oil paint in tubes became available to artists. When visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, I was quite impressed with the sheer volume of paint Van Gogh used in his excessively impasto style - more than any other painter I have seen. Does this affect the preservation of the art? Did any of Van Gogh's contemporaries use his style? Kind regards and hope to see more from your museum.

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