Van Gogh or Not Van Gogh? Sunflower Power.

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Can sunflowers be any happier? No wonder they have inspired the imagination of many artists since 1880s. Even earlier, almost certainly; it’s just that when we think “sunflowers” now, we think “Van Gogh”.

His parents did not break their heads choosing the name when he was born. “Vincent” was the name his grandfather, his uncle and his brother had. “So be it”, his parents said and that is how one of the greatest artists of the western world got his name. He was a good boy, did not like the school, though, as he always wanted to go back home. Even so, he was not a troublemaker his parents went sour for him when he broke their expectations of becoming a priest and began a new career as an artist instead. “What in the name of the Lord, are you going to do? Why can’t you be normal, get married and have a family?” – his mother used to nag. Probably. The reason, I think, she did that is that they all disliked Vincent’s decision to change the path that they picked for him and start painting. Only his brother Theo said, “Listen, Vincent is 27 years old, let him decide”. Again, I think he said something like that because he was the only one who supported the artist and even helped him with the money.

From the moment Vincent Van Gogh decided to become an artist that was pretty much the only thing that he did. He painted about 900 paintings in 10 years. It’s like… one painting a week. Imagine that! He depicted field, forests, flowers and people who wished to pose but did not ask to pay them money for the sitting. Maybe that is the reason Vincent painted himself so often, besides, he was his own most loyal fan. Hence, he sold only one painting in his lifetime and became widely recognized after his death.  If only he had Instagram he would be popular in a week with that many selfies (43 of them), but the times were different and fame was not something that bothered him too much.

Van Gogh’s Selfie

Being very prolific Vincent oftentimes forgot to eat or brush his hair or talk to people. And they started the rumors of him being weird. To be honest, his family noticed that long time ago, and Vincent was aware that his health was not normal, especially when he started to have all kinds of seizures. He finally realized that if he did not help himself no one would and committed himself to the mental clinic. You might think that when he was there he either wore a straitjacket or banged a pot on the door, but no, he actually, created his most beautiful works there. Like this one:


The title of the painting is The Starry Night and the scientists say that it explains an extremely difficult mathematical concept called Turbulence. You can show this short video to the older kids but to the younger I just stopped right there. It’s better to leave them to the news that math is everywhere so they’d better do their homework. 🙂

Imitating Van Gogh was fun! So glad we did the paintings on hardboard canvases because that way they would last. I sprayed them with a fixative after they got dried out and… Wow! The artworks are ready for the gallery:

Maria, 10
Victoria, 4
Anna, 5
Mia, 6
Nicholas, 9
Ali, 6
Emma, 6

As you can see, the works are all different, even the backgrounds and colors of the flowers. This session I purposefully do not give them any reference and continue to insist that they use their imagination on all accounts.

The kids questioned my choice of music, but then they saw the picture of the composer holding his cat and it was resolved: we listened to Cornelis Dopper Symphony No.3 to keep up with a Dutch theme.



I hope you have a great class.


Now, about that ear… No one knows for sure what happened but the kids  loved the fact that Vincent van Gogh cut it himself. They were not interested if Paul Gauguin, the artist’s friend might do it or if it was an accident. Nope! Van Gogh will always be more exciting to them as a person who was insane enough to do that.


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