Van Gogh And His Strange Play With Colors!

Van Gogh portrait

You must have all heard of Vincent Van Gogh, at least once!  The Dutch painter, who is also the founder of the Impressionist school, has had a difficult life, but the hope of life is evident in his paintings.

His use of colors in his time was unusual and special.  This is what made me write about him today.

Let’s get to know Van Gogh’s mental world better!

Van Gogh’s use of colors

Van Gogh never used real colors.  On the contrary, he used colors that could affect the audience’s emotions.

He first used dark colors such as olive green, raw sienna and raw umber.  Then he added bright colors to the color palette of his paintings.  Colors such as yellow, orange, red, blue and green.

Van Gogh The Potato Eaters painting with color palette which has dark colors like black, gray and olive green colors
The Potato Eaters – Vincent van Gogh (1885)

In fact, in Van Gogh’s paintings, yellow ocher, chrome yellow, cadmium yellow, chrome orange, vermilion, Prussian blue, ultramarine, lead white, zinc white, emerald green, red lake, red ocher, raw sienna, and black can be found.

The choice of his colors depended on his mood.  Indeed, he sometimes uses complementary colors to brighten and create contrast in his painting.  Sometimes, like a sunflowers painting, he limited his palette to a color that was yellow in this example.

Van Gogh Sunflowers painting with color palette which has blue, green, yellow and dark red colors
Sunflowers – Vincent van Gogh (1888)

van gogh complementary colors

As I said, Van Gogh, like other Dutch painters, initially used dark colors for his paintings.

Because he was curious about colors.  He read books on color theory and became acquainted with complementary colors.  He actually found that yellow and purple, blue and orange, red and green intensified each other.

So, after moving to Paris, he learned how to use colors.  Gradually, light colors replaced dark colors in his paintings.

Like the Self-portrait painting that Van Gogh painted.  Indeed, if you pay attention to it, the color of her hair, beard and mustache is orange and the color of her clothes is blue.  This is an example of the use of complementary colors.

Van Gogh Self-portrait painting with color palette which has light and dark blue and cream colors
Self-portrait – Vincent van Gogh (1889)

Van gogh color symbolism

I want to start by painting Van Gogh sunflowers.  So, he painted this painting with almost no shadows or complementary colors, and the most used color is yellow.

Yellow is the color of the sun and is also a symbol of life, energy, happiness and hope.

How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s painting “Shoes”, in which he used a lot of brown and khaki colors.  Brown is the color of earth and wood.  It is, in fact, a symbol of virtue.  By turning these shoes brown, Van Gogh wanted to show the hard life and humility of the shoe owner.

Van Gogh Shoes painting with color palette which has gray, cream and  brown colors
Shoes – Vincent van Gogh (1886)

In the painting of the night cafe, according to Van Gogh himself, he wanted to depict the horrible human emotions with the two colors red and its complement green.

Van Gogh The Night Cafe painting with color palette which has yellow, blue, green, orange and red colors
The Night Cafe- Vincent van Gogh (1888)

van gogh color palette

If you’re still with me, let’s take a look at these color palettes from Van Gogh’s paintings!

Also, if you, like me, are a fan of Van Gogh and his paintings, I have a nice suggestion for you!

Van Gogh The Starry Night painting with color palette which has navy, dark blue, light blue and yellow colors
The Starry Night- Vincent van Gogh (1889)
Van Gogh The Red Vineyard painting with color palette which has dark blue, dark red, orange and yellow colors
The Red Vineyard- Vincent van Gogh (1888)
Van Gogh Landscape With House painting with color palette which has blue, yellow, light orange, dark orange and green color
Landscape With House- Vincent van Gogh (1889)
Van Gogh's Chair painting with color palette which has blue, yellow, green, redv and light pink colors
Van Gogh’s Chair – Vincent van Gogh (1888)
Van Gogh Cafe Terrace At Night painting with color palette which has yellow, dark and light blue and orange colors
Cafe Terrace At Night – Vincent van Gogh (1888)

last word

Well, we saw Van Gogh and his fascinating works.  We saw his wonderful and even strange use of colors.  He is definitely a great artist in his time and later.

Moreover, his hard life and exhausting illnesses have created an attractive and beautiful effect in which the colors are placed in the most special way possible.

Truly, Van Gogh is a master of using complementary colors correctly!

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It's Nazanin. For me who loves the rainbow after the rain. What could be more beautiful than writing about colors ?! Well, I'm here now, in Dopely, to share my writings about colors with you and take you with me to the world of colors!

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