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Vincent van Gogh: a starving artist?

Vincent Van Gogh: a poor artist?
A
Yes
B
No
C
Don't know
D
Who's Vincent Van Gogh?
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volgende
Slide 1: Quizvraag
Art and designSecondary Education

In deze les zitten 13 slides, met interactieve quizzen en tekstslides.

time-iconLesduur is: 15 min

Introductie

Many people think Vincent van Gogh was a starving artist, but that's not entirely true . . . In this short lesson, students can work independently to find out why.

Instructies

General learning objective
- Students will learn about Vincent van Gogh's and several of his art works.
- Students will discover the difference between the popular image of Vincent van Gogh as a starving artist and the reality.

Materials required
None

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 for a living. So he sent Vincent some money every month – more than the average French middle-class working man earned.

Onderdelen in deze les

Vincent Van Gogh: a poor artist?
A
Yes
B
No
C
Don't know
D
Who's Vincent Van Gogh?

Slide 1 - Quizvraag

Begin the lesson with this multiple-choice question. You might wish to start by discussing the different possible meanings of 'poor' here. The intended meaning of the question is whether Vincent had financial problems. Have a few students pick an answer and give reasons for it. The correct answer is explained from slide 2 onwards.

Many people think Vincent was poor, and that's not so strange. After he decided to become an artist, he earned almost nothing. His art was unlike what people were used to and didn't suit their tastes. He did sell a drawing once in a while, like this one: a city scene in The Hague.
Bridge and Houses on the Corner of Herengracht-Prinsessegracht, The Hague (1882)
Vincent sold this painting to an uncle who was in the art trade. He ordered twelve city scenes like these from Vincent.

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Answer
Vincent received 2.50 in Dutch guilders. In today's European currency (euros), that is €27.50. He received 30 guilders for the entire series of twelve drawings, which is about equal in value to €330 today. That was enough for Vincent to pay two months' rent.
Question
How much do you think Vincent was paid for this drawing?

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

When times were hard, Vincent could borrow money from friends and family. He always made sure to pay them back. He also received gifts of money, sometimes from his parents, but most often from his younger brother Theo. Theo supported Vincent all his life.
Theo Van Gogh,
Vincent's younger brother

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Theo worked as an art dealer in Paris. He earned a good salary. A couple of times a month, Theo enclosed French currency in his letters to Vincent. For example, this banknote is worth 100 (cent) French francs. That was equal to 50 Dutch guilders or, in today's European currency, about €550.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

When Vincent went to live in Arles in southern France, he stayed in this yellow house. He was still not selling any paintings. Theo sent him 220 to 260 French francs every month. But he never sent Vincent the money all at once, because then  he would spend it much too quickly.
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Title The Yellow House ('the street') - detail
Datering 1888
Location Arles, France
Collection Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

220 to 260 francs a month... What do you think?
A
That's quite a bit.
B
That's not very much.
C
That's just enough.
D
I have no idea...

Slide 7 - Quizvraag

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

By comparison, one of Vincent's friends in Arles, Joseph Roulin, had a good job working for the French postal service. He earned 135 French francs a month, around €750.
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Title Portret van Joseph Roulin
Date 1889
Location Arles, France
Collectie Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Joseph had a wife and three children. So he used his salary to support five people. Vincent received almost twice as much from Theo – and it was all for him.

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies


How did Vincent spend his money?

Slide 10 - Open vraag

Have the class think of what Vincent might have spent his money on: food, coffee, alcoholic drinks, art supplies (brushes, paint, canvas, etc.), stamps, paper for writing letters, ink, furniture for his house, clothing, a house cleaner, tobacco for his pipe, women . . . The next slide is about the rent for The Yellow House.
Answer
Vincent received 220 to 260 francs a month from Theo. Even if we take the lower number, 220 francs, Vincent still spent less than a tenth of his monthly payment on rent.
And sometimes Theo sent him more, so the percentage was even smaller.
Question
In the Netherlands, people today spend one quarter of their income on housing, on average. Vincent paid 21.5 francs a month in rent in Arles. What percentage of his income was that?

Slide 11 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

So, was Vincent van Gogh a poor artist?
What arguments would you use to convince someone that the answer is 'No, not really'?

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies

Vincent died at the early age of 37. Not until the end of his life did his work begin to gain more recognition. A few months before Vincent's death, Theo sold this painting for 400 French francs. That's about €2,200 euros, quite a bit of money – but not compared to the millions that people pay for Vincent's paintings today.
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Title The Red Vineyard
Datering 1888
Location Arles, France
Collection Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

Deze slide heeft geen instructies