Was Vincent poor?

Was Vincent van Gogh a poor artist?
I don't know
Who's Vincent van Gogh?
1 / 10
Slide 1: Quizvraag
Art and designPrimary Education

In deze les zitten 10 slides, met interactieve quizzen en tekstslides.

time-iconLesduur is: 15 min


Many people think Vincent van Gogh was a poor artist... but he wasn't all that poor! In this short lesson, the class will find out why with the help of arithmetic.


General learning objectives
- The class will discover the difference between the popular image of Vincent van Gogh as a starving artist and the reality.
- The class will solve a simple arithmetic problem.

If you would like the pupils to work independently or in pairs, print out as many worksheets as you need.

Materials required
Optional: The worksheet 'How did Vincent spend his money?'

Optional variations
You can extend the lesson by ending with a creative assignment, like making a new design for paper money. For inspiration, show slide 5 on your digital whiteboard.

Background information
As an artist, Vincent van Gogh was financially dependent on his younger brother Theo. Theo van Gogh felt that Vincent should have the freedom to focus on his art, without also having to work. So he sent Vincent some money every month – more than the monthly wages of the average middle-class worker.

Onderdelen in deze les

Was Vincent van Gogh a poor artist?
I don't know
Who's Vincent van Gogh?

Slide 1 - Quizvraag

Start the lesson with this multiple-choice question. You might want to discuss what the word 'poor' means here. In this case, the question is whether or not Vincent had enough money. Ask a few children to explain which answer they chose and why.

The correct answer is given with the next slide, and then explained.

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

Continue: No, Vincent wasn't really poor. But it's not surprising that many people think he was, because for his entire life, he earned almost nothing. He did sell a drawing once in a while, usually to a friend or relative. For example, he sold this drawing to his uncle.

Bridge and Houses on the Corner of Herengracht-Prinsessegracht, The Hague, 1882

How much was Vincent paid for this drawing?

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

Have a few pupils guess an amount. Who is closest?
> In the time and place where Vincent lived, people didn't use euros [or your own country's currency] but guilders. Vincent was paid 2 guilders and 50 cents for this drawing.   That was worth about the same amount as 27,50 euros today. [Or convert from euros to your currency.]

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

Continue: Fortunately, Vincent could also borrow money from his friends and family. He always made sure to pay them back. He was also given money, sometimes by his parents, but most often by his younger brother Theo.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Continue: Theo had a good job in Paris. He made plenty of money. So when he wrote a letter to Vincent, he often sent money too. This banknote is an example of the money he sent: 100 French francs. (The French word cent means '100'.) Vincent could exchange this French bank note for Dutch money: 50 guilders. That's about the same as 550 euros today.

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Continue: After Vincent moved to southern France, Theo sent him even more money: 220 to 260 French francs every month. But Theo didn't send it all at once, because then Vincent would have spent it much too quickly.

Is 220 to 260 French francs a lot of money, or not very much?

Let's take a look.

Laten we eens kijken.

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

A friend of Vincent's, Joseph Roulin, had a good job working for the French postal service. He earned 135 French francs a month. Theo sent Vincent at least 220 francs. (How much more is that?) And sometimes he sent even more. Joseph also had a wife and three children to look after. Vincent had no wife or children.

How did Vincent spend his money?

Slide 8 - Open vraag

Have the class think of what Vincent might have spent his money on: food and drinks, the rent for the Yellow House, art supplies (brushes, paint, canvas, etc.), stamps, paper for writing letters, ink, furniture for his house, clothing, a house cleaner, tobacco for his pipe... Then they can do the arithmetic problem on slide 9 individually or in pairs, using the worksheet. The class can also do the problem on the board as a group exercise.

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Artist's model: 2 

Rent: 3

Canvas: 4  

Food: 5

 was Vincent van Gogh a poor artist?

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

By now, the class knows that the answer is 'no'. You can end the lesson by asking how they would explain their answer to someone else. What reasons would they give?