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Loving Vincent - A fiction full of facts

Loving Vincent is the first feature film in the world to be fully hand-painted.
The film has already won a number of prizes for best film and best animated film.
Loving Vincent consists of more than 65,000 painted frames, 12 per second.
The film was painted by 125 artists, all of whom had to learn Vincent's style of painting.
The story is fictional, but it is based on a number of facts in the life of Vincent van Gogh.
One noteworthy detail: Vincent's voice in the film was provided by the Dutch actor Jochum ten Haaf. He had performed the role of Vincent before in a play in London and New York.
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Slide 1: Tekstslide
Art and designHistory+1Secondary Education

In deze les zitten 31 slides, met interactieve quizzen, tekstslides en 1 video.

time-iconLesduur is: 30 min

Introductie

This lesson is about fact, fiction, and the characters in the film 'Loving Vincent', with some optional follow-up assignments at the end. If you use the lesson in preparation for seeing the film, be aware that it contains some potential spoilers. The lesson can be divided into 'before' and 'after' sections if desired.

Instructies

General learning objectives
  • The students will learn about the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. 
  • The students will be introduced to the film Loving Vincent. They will draw connections between the film and several of Vincent van Gogh's paintings.
  • The students will find out that a mixture of fact and fiction can lead to a new artistic creation. 
The lesson can be used in class, or students can complete it individually. The teacher can decide how students should respond to the questions and assignments.

Materials required
Students can use their mobile phones for the quiz. The lesson can also be completed without mobiles.

Working method
The lesson can be used in class, or students can complete it individually. You can decide how students should respond to the questions and assignments.
It is fairly easy to divide the lesson into three sections:
slides 1–10, slides 11–19 and slides 20 and onward.

Onderdelen in deze les

Loving Vincent is the first feature film in the world to be fully hand-painted.
The film has already won a number of prizes for best film and best animated film.
Loving Vincent consists of more than 65,000 painted frames, 12 per second.
The film was painted by 125 artists, all of whom had to learn Vincent's style of painting.
The story is fictional, but it is based on a number of facts in the life of Vincent van Gogh.
One noteworthy detail: Vincent's voice in the film was provided by the Dutch actor Jochum ten Haaf. He had performed the role of Vincent before in a play in London and New York.

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

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The title Loving Vincent refers to the phrase used by Vincent at the end of many of his letters:

 'Your loving Vincent'.


Slide 2 - Tekstslide

You could also discuss the double meaning of the title and the other possible interpretation: 'feeling love for Vincent'.
One central element of the film is a letter from Vincent that was not delivered. This leads to an exciting search.
Fact or fiction?
The letter in the story is fictional, but the filmmakers did model it after a real example: a card from Vincent to his brother Theo.
Fact or fiction?
At the end of the film, the fictional letter is read aloud. The filmmakers based it on quotes from a letter that Vincent actually wrote.

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

By zooming in on the actual card, you can see where and when it was sent (Hoogeveen, 24 September 1883) and when it arrived in Paris (just one day later, 25 September 1883).

Slide 4 - Video

Have your students already seen the film? In that case, you can use the trailer to refresh their memory, or you can go on to the next slide.





All the painted images in the film are based on live action performed by actors in a studio.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

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Then the scenes of the film were painted by hand, frame by frame.
Vincent van Gogh was played by the Polish actor Robert Gulaczyk. The way he is painted here, by artist Anna Kluza, is based on Vincent's famous self-portrait from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

.
Another important character in the film is Marguerite Gachet. In the live action version, she is played by actress Saoirse Ronan. On the left, you can see her in the studio during shooting.
The similarities between the final painted scene (on the right) and an original painting by Vincent (in the middle) are easy to see. But can you also explain the biggest difference?

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

The answer is on the next slide.
Vincent's original painting has a vertical or portrait format. But that doesn't work on a cinema screen. So in the film version, you see much more of the room in which Marguerite is playing piano. That extra material was invented by the filmmakers and painted in Vincent's style.

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

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"You want to know so much about his death, but what do you know of his life?"
In one of the scenes, Marguerite asks an important question. Can you answer it? How much do you know about Vincent van Gogh's life?

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Seen the film? In that case, go on to the next slide, or use the alternative question, "How much did you know about Vincent's life before you saw the film?" Review the answers with the help of the word web on the next slide.
Vincent van Gogh

Slide 10 - Woordweb

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Marguerite Gachet is not a fictional character. She really existed, and so did many other characters in Loving Vincent. Most of them are based on portraits and other paintings by Vincent.

Slide 11 - Tekstslide

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What do you think: how many of these characters can art historians clearly identify today?
A
All of them
B
3
C
6
D
9

Slide 12 - Quizvraag

If the students have watched the complete closing credits of the film, remind them of the information they saw there.





This character is based on the portrait of Paul Eugène Milliet, officer in a special unit of the French army and a friend of Vincent's in Arles.
This character is based on a portrait painted by Vincent in Auvers. The identity of the boy with the cornflower is unknown.
Marguerite Gachet was the daughter of Vincent's doctor, Dr Gachet. She was 20 years old when Vincent painted her. Marguerite hung the painting over her bed, where it remained for 44 years.
Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland
In real life, as in the film, Dr Paul-Ferdinand Gachet was Vincent's doctor and friend in Auvers. The image here is based on a portrait in a private collection, but there is also a second version.
Adeline Ravoux is based on the actual portrait of her that Vincent painted in 1890. In fact, Adeline was then 13 years old; in the film, she is older.
Armand Roulin really existed. Vincent painted the portrait of this 17-year-old French boy in the French town of Arles in 1888. It is now on display in Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany. Armand is a little older in the film than he was in real life.
There really was a policeman called Officer Rigaumont, but the character in the film is based on a portrait of an unknown man, which Vincent made while staying in a hospital in Saint-Rémy in 1889.
Vincent Willem van Gogh
Julien Tanguy, better known as Père Tanguy, really did own an art supply shop in Paris. Vincent became Julien's friend and painted his portrait a couple of times.
Joseph Roulin was a French postmaster who worked at the railway station. He and Vincent knew each other. The character here is based on a portrait in Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland.
This character in the film is based on Vincent's portrait of a gardener in Arles, Patience Escalier.
This unidentified man was a Zouave, a soldier in a special unit of the French army.
This painting is based on Vincent's painting La Mousmé. The name of the subject is unknown.
This is Dr Mazery in the film. He really existed, but Vincent did not paint him. The figure in the film is based on a painting that is now in the Kröller-Müller Museum.
The boatman is based on a figure in the background of the painting Bank of the Oise at Auvers.
This fictional character in the film is called Louise Chevalier. Her appearance is based on a painting in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

If the original works are in public collections, links have been added (where possible). Click on the hotspots to see images of those works.
Vincent wrote, often and at length, about his work and the people he knew. Many of his letters, 820, have been preserved. Most were written to his brother Theo. 
'Yesterday and the day before yesterday I painted Miss Gachet's portrait ... The dress is pink. The wall in the background green with orange spots ... the piano dark violet. It's 1 metre high and 50 [cm] wide.'
Vincent wrote this letter on 28 June 1890, a month before he died. It tells us exactly when he painted his portrait of Marguerite.

Slide 14 - Tekstslide

From about 1886 onwards, The Van Gogh brothers usually wrote to each other in French. The complete English translation of this letter can be read online. To see an image of the letter, click on the hotspot in the middle at the top. To see a quote, click on the hotspot on the lower right.
The portrait of actor Robert Gulaczyk as Vincent van Gogh is based on Vincent's famous self-portrait from 1889. It is on display in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Slide 15 - Tekstslide

Have the students compare the portrait of the actor to the original. Then discuss the similarities and differences.





Although Loving Vincent is about Vincent van Gogh, the main character is Armand Roulin.

Slide 16 - Tekstslide

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Armand's father sends him to Paris to deliver a letter from Vincent van Gogh.
In the film, Armand is played by the actor Douglas Booth.

Slide 17 - Tekstslide

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Armand's father, Joseph Roulin, was a postmaster at a railway station and a good friend of Vincent's.
In the film, Joseph is played by the actor Chris O'Dowd.
The original portrait of Joseph is on display in Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.
Fact or fiction?
Fact. In his letters, Vincent called Joseph 'my friend the postman' and even described him as 'a man more interesting than most'. In Loving Vincent, all the members of the Roulin family are mentioned, but only Joseph and Armand appear on screen.

Slide 18 - Tekstslide

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Collage invoegen van de verschillende portretten van de familie Roulin
Fact
Vincent spent a lot of time with the Roulins. The family lived near him, and he often ate with them and went to the local café with the father, Joseph. He also painted the whole family several times.
Later, the paintings were scattered all over the world.

Slide 19 - Tekstslide

This is an overview of a number of Van Gogh's portraits of the Roulin family... but not all of them.

The makers of Loving Vincent show in their film that, more than 125 years after his death, Vincent's work remains inspiring. They tell a story about his life that interweaves fact and fiction in a fascinating way.

Slide 20 - Tekstslide

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The film begins in the southern French town of Arles in 1891. Armand Roulin is sent by his father to deliver a letter to Vincent's brother Theo in Paris.
Fact or fiction?
Fiction. In fact, the Roulins were no longer living in Arles in 1891, but in Marseille. Except for Armand, who was working as a smith in the village of Lambesc, 60 kilometres east of Arles. His journey in the film is fictional – but it makes a very good story.
Weak
Early in the film, Armand calls Vincent a 'loser', and he describes Vincent as 'weak'. What reasons does he give? And what is his father's reply?

Slide 21 - Tekstslide

The conversation between Joseph and Armand goes something like this:
J: 'Life can break even the strongest man. After that incident with the ear, no one would give him another chance. Even the children tormented him.'
A: 'I call it weak to let children chase you into the madhouse.'
J: 'Together with the neighbours, the police... the mayor... the whole town! Against an ill man! He went to the hospital in St. Remy to get better, and it worked. They declared him cured.'






In Paris, Armand discovers at Père Tanguy's shop that Theo is dead. He died soon after Vincent.
Fact or fiction?
Fact and fiction. Theo van Gogh did die about six months after Vincent, but Armand Roulin did not actually learn that fact from Père Tanguy.

Slide 22 - Tekstslide

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Armand hopes to find out more about Vincent's death in Auvers-sur-Oise. Was it really suicide, or was the artist murdered? Each person he talks to has different ideas about it. 

Slide 23 - Tekstslide

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In the film, the characters look back on their experiences with Vincent, each from their own perspective. But what is the truth?
What do you think?
You heard a variety of arguments in the film. What's your conclusion?

Slide 24 - Tekstslide

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What do you think?
Did Vincent commit suicide, or was he murdered?
A
Vincent committed suicide.
B
Vincent was murdered.

Slide 25 - Quizvraag

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Fact
This is a newspaper article from shortly after Vincent's death. It says that he shot himself with a revolver in the fields near Auvers, returned to his room wounded, and died there two days later.
Fact or fiction?
Armand's conversations in the film are fictional, and so are some of the characters. But the question of whether Vincent was murdered has been debated by many people in real life. This makes for an exciting story, but we know from primary sources and historical research that Vincent's death was actually a suicide.
Fact
One important source of information about Vincent's last days in Auvers was Adeline Ravoux. More than 65 years after Vincent's death, she put down her memories on paper. When Adeline talks about Vincent's death in the film, she uses almost exactly the same words as the real Adeline.
Fact
One important source of information about Vincent's death was his brother Theo, who was with him when he died. In a letter to their mother in the Netherlands, Theo described Vincent's funeral in Auvers:

'If he could have seen how people treated me after he had gone & could have seen the expressions of sympathy for him from so many people, he would not, at that moment, have wanted to die.'

Slide 26 - Tekstslide

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Fact or fiction?
In the film, Dr Gachet blames himself for Vincent's death. But he probably never really said that Vincent was a heavy burden on Theo. In any case, we do know from Vincent's letters that in the period before his death, he was deeply worried about the future.

Slide 27 - Tekstslide

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In the film, Armand gives Vincent's letter to Dr Gachet. In return, he is given a copy of a letter from Vincent.
The letter that Armand reads is based on Vincent's own words from an actual letter that he wrote in 1882.
As Dr Gachet hands Armand Vincent's other letter, he says, 'Take it - for your journey.' This has both a literal and a figurative meaning. Can you explain the two meanings?
In the film, Armand reads the letter but you hear Vincent's voice:

'Who am I in the eyes of most people?
A nobody, a non-entity, an unpleasant person.
Someone who has not and never will have any position in society.
In short, the lowest of the low.
Well then. Even if that were all absolutely true, then one day,
I would like to show by my work what this nobody, this non-entity has in his heart.'

Slide 28 - Tekstslide

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Assignment
  • Loving Vincent has been received enthusiastically around the world. But what do you think? Does the film do justice to the life and work of Vincent van Gogh? Write a short review in which you explain your opinion and give reasons for it.

Slide 29 - Tekstslide

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Assignment
  • How would your portrait look if Vincent van Gogh had painted it? Find one of his portraits and make a version with you as the subject. You can paint, draw or make a digital version with Photoshop.

Slide 30 - Tekstslide

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Assignment
  • With which character in Loving Vincent do you identify? Write a monologue from that character's point of view about how he or she remembers Vincent. Use some of the facts you learned from this lesson as the basis for your fictional story.

Slide 31 - Tekstslide

If you wish, your students can work in pairs. In that case, let them write a dialogue instead.