Van Gogh at work

1 May 2013 - 12 January 2014

Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait as a painter (1887-1888), Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)The anniversary exhibition Van Gogh at work shows how in ten years’ time Van Gogh developed into a unique artist with an impressive oeuvre. Over 200 works of art provide insight into Van Gogh’s way of working, including  paintings, works on paper, letters and personal effects of the painter, such as his original sketchbooks, paint tubes and only surviving palette, from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Besides our own extensive collection, you will see top works from collections worldwide. Works which are rarely seen next to each other are brought together in this exhibition,
such as two versions of Sunflowers (May-August) and The bedroom (September-January). A rich assortment of works by Van Gogh’s contemporaries will also be on show. Pieces from the museum collection will hang side by side with unique works on loan by Monet, Gauguin, Seurat and Bernard that Van Gogh himself once saw.

The exhibition leads you chronologically through Van Gogh’s development as an artist, from his first experimental drawings to his famous later paintings. 

Explore in-depth themes
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Palet uit Auvers, Musée d’Orsay, Parijs. Fotografie: Erik en Petra Hesmerg Van Gogh at work also presents a number of themes for anyone wishing to learn more about Van Gogh's use of materials and technique. The theme of Studies focuses on both the academy in Antwerp and the influence of his contemporaries. Materials and tools highlights the many different kinds of canvas and paint that he used and the perspective frame that helped him to achieve accurate proportions and depth. Recycling painting shows that the painter recycled canvases when he used up his own supply and was short of money. He would paint over earlier pictures or on the backs of canvases. Sometimes cracks formed because he was too impatient to let the paint dry.
Colour plays an essential role in Van Gogh’s work; he chose his combinations carefully, striving for powerful contrasts. Applying paint shows that Van Gogh never stopped experimenting with ways of using paint. He often applied thick layers, shaping them with his pencil almost as if modelling clay, but he also worked with diluted oil paint. Open air or studio shows that Van Gogh painted outdoors as often as he could, but also worked in his studio regularly.

Lots to see and do
Besides plenty to see, there’s also lots to do. You can see and feel which material Van Gogh used, under what conditions he worked, which artists influenced him and where he bought his materials. You can also view paint samples through a microscope and study X-rays.

Various activities for young and old
The activity programme will be highly diverse, with activities for young and old: workshops, painting lessons, guided tours and a multimedia tour. Furthermore, the weekly Friday Night events are back from 3 May and a new series of Sunday lectures will start from 5 May.

Have a look at the calendar for all planned activities and events.

Multimedia tour and children's audio tour
With the Van Gogh at work exhibition, a brand new multimedia tour will be launched, taking visitors through Van Gogh’s life and development as an artist. The many extras provide insight into the way he worked. The new tour is for sale in the museum. Available in English, Dutch, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Price: € 5.
For children an audio tour is available in English and Dutch, price: € 2.50.

The exhibition will be accompanied by several publications. These include a detailed scholarly and technical work marking the end of eight years of research and an exhibition catalogue produced in partnership with the Mercatorfonds in Brussels. There will also be a convenient booklet with exhibition highlights and a fun children’s activity book. Finally, the Folio Society in London is working with the Van Gogh Museum to publish a unique facsimile edition of Van Gogh’s only four surviving sketchbooks.

Results of a long-term research project
Ella Hendriks examines 'The bedroom'Van Gogh at work anniversary exhibition is the result of a long-term research project into the artist’s methods. Since 2005 a multidisciplinary team, excisting of the Van Gogh Museum, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed; RCE) and Shell Nederland, has been involved in intensive research into Vincent van Gogh’s techniques and material use. The results are hugely important for our knowledge about the artist.

‘I am a privileged person. It’s such a special thing to be in physical contact with the object. Research teaches you a lot, but a conservator who treats a painting comes even closer. Then you have to understand it very well indeed. And if all goes well, the results of the restoration are very rewarding; sometimes, it’s almost like acquiring a new painting.’ - Ella Hendriks, senior conservator, Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh at work
is made possible by:


Logo Bankgiro LoterijLogo Vincent van Gogh StichtingLogo AkzoNobel


Logo Shell Partner in Science Shell Nederland.

Logo RCEThe exhibition has been supported by the Dutch government: an indemnity grant has been provided by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands on behalf of the Minister of Education, culture and Science and the Minister of Finance.

Logo Leica

Copyright 2005-2014 - Van Gogh Museum | Credits | Disclaimer | Links