Vincent van Gogh drew thousands of images to better his skills and to fulfill leisure time.
He completed over 1,000 drawings, which are known of, from 1877 to 1890. Van
Gogh saw drawing as a necessary task to build a foundation as an artist and to study form and movement. However, as he
describes, in many of his letters, he also used drawing as an outlet for his depression. The following except about
Van Gogh’s drawing comes from a letter Vincent wrote in 1880, at the age of 27, to his brother Theo.
“Well, and yet it was in these depths of misery that I felt my energy revive and I said to myself, I shall get over it somehow, I shall set to work again with my pencil, which I had cast aside in my deep dejection, and I shall draw again, and from that moment I have had the feeling that everything has changed for me, and now I am in my stride and my pencil has become slightly more willing and seems to be getting more so by the day. My over-long and over-intense misery had discouraged me so much that I was unable to do anything.”
Although Van Gogh is mainly recognized for his vibrant use of color, his drawings are exceptional because his representation of figures, light and landscape can be appreciated in their own right without the color to distract the eye.
Van Gogh’s drawings were mainly done in pencil, black chalk, red chalk, blue chalk, reed pen and charcoal, although he often mixed mediums when drawing. The following are some examples:
Pencil and transparent water color – Young Man With a Pipe
Pencil, pen, brush, sepia, washed – Bent Figure of a Woman
Black and white chalks, blue pastel, reed pen and ink - Cottages With a Woman Working in the Foreground
Van Gogh drew on a variety of paper types these included Ingres paper, laid paper, wove paper as some of the more commons types. Although drawing was less expensive than painting, Van Gogh used any material he had available. For example, his drawing Peasant Woman, Half-Figure was drawn on an envelope.
Van Gogh was happy when he was drawing, but he doubted his abilities. In the same letter to Theo from 1880 Van Gogh writes,
“I cannot tell you how happy I am that I have taken up drawing again. I had been thinking about it for a long time, but always considered it impossible and beyond my abilities.”
Although his paintings are much more popular than his drawings, Van Gogh is considered a master draftsman as well (see biography). Even after Van Gogh began painting, he continued to draw often doing studies of paintings before and after he completed the canvas. Through drawing he could capture light and images more quickly than painting. He would also sketch out his vision for a painting as practice before beginning the painting. In order to show his paintings to others, mainly to his brother Theo, Van Gogh drew several paintings after they were completed so that they were more portable and could be mailed. The following is a study of his most famous painting Starry Night.
For more information on some of Van Gogh’s most famous drawings click on the links below or visit the catalog to view a complete list of all Vincent van Gogh’s drawings. From this list you can select a drawing by name to view it on screen.