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Musee D’Orsay: Van Gogh Must See Artworks

Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch post-impressionism artist, died penniless and sold only one painting in his lifetime. However, years after his death, the world rediscovered the true worth of Van Gogh’s artworks. Today, Van Gogh is hailed by the art world as one of the most significant painters of modern art. To buy an original Van Gogh painting, you will need to pay millions of dollars!

Van Gogh Artworks in Musee D’Orsay

Most major art museums with worldclass art collections will have at least one Van Gogh painting on their walls. However, for series Van Gogh art lovers, then you must visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kroller Muller museum in the Netherlands. Both museums own the largest Van Gogh art collections in the world. Not far behind is the wonderful Musee D’Orsay in Paris. The D’Orsay museum owns an impressive twenty-seven Van Gogh paintings , most of them located in the rooms 71 and 72.

The Musee D’Orsay is a huge modern art museum, located in the center of Paris. The magnificent building was once the Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. This stunning and huge museum focuses on artworks created between the periods between 1848 to 1914. It has the largest impressionism collection in the world. It’s Van Gogh collection is superb!

Check out the below clip that imagines how Vincent Van Gogh would feel if he returned to the world today. In this clip, the Dutch artist is taken to the Van Gogh room at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. It brilliantly portrays Van Gogh’s reaction when he sees how the world views him today…… Warning!!! Have tissues ready …

Below is a list of six important Van Gogh paintings that you MUST see when visiting the Musee D’Orsay.

1. The Bedroom (1889), Arles

Van Gogh painted The Bedroom in 1889. This painting depicts his bedroom inside the Yellow House that he rented in Arles. This was a significant milestone for the artist, as it was the first time that he had a place of his own. Van Gogh enthusiastically decorated his bedroom, painting canvases to hang on the walls.

Vincent Van Gogh painted three different versions of this bedroom scene and all from the same perspective. However, for each version, Van Gogh painted in different tones and depicted different paintings on the right wall.

The below painting is the version hanging in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. The other two versions of the bedroom are belong to Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Musee D Orsay- Van Gogh painting: The Bedroom, Arles
Musee D Orsay- Van Gogh painting: The Bedroom, Arles

This painting can be found in room 72.

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2. Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888), Arles

“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

Quote – Vincent Van Gogh

In Starry Night, Van Gogh portrays a beautiful starlit night in Arles and the reflections of the gas lights on the shimmering Rhone river. Although this piece is less iconic than the swirling Starry Night , it still remains an important piece in Van Gogh’s art collection. This canvas captures a rare moment of tranquility during the final years of Van Gogh’s turbulent life.

Interestingly, although Paris had around 9,000 gaslights by 1847, gas lighting in Arles and other small towns and villages around France came decades later. So this Van Gogh artwork actually shows a significant historical milestone for Arles – now artificially lit up at night!

This painting can be found in room 72.

Musee D Orsay- Van Gogh Starry Night over the Rhone, Arles (1888)
Musee D Orsay- Van Gogh Starry Night over the Rhone, Arles (1888)

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” –Vincent Van Gogh

3. Vincent Van Gogh Self-Portrait, Autumn 1887

Vincent van Gogh painted or drew himself in around 43 self portraits in just ten years. He used portrait painting as a method of introspection, for developing his skills as an artist and also to save money. As he explained to his sister in one of his letters, it was cheaper for him to paint himself than pay for a model!! To paint himself, he used a mirror.

He wrote in another letter:

“I am looking for a deeper likeness than that obtained by a photographer.” Van Gogh

Van Gogh Experiments with Divisionism

In the self portrait painted in 1887, Vincent uses the Divisionism technique (also called Neo-Impressionism). This technique required not mixing colors ahead of time but rather placing them beside each other on the canvas. The blending of the color occurs “in the eye” of the viewer.

In early 1887, Van Gogh met one of the founders of the divisionism art movement, Paul Signac, who introduced him to the technique of using short brush strokes. Van Gogh adapted the Neo-Impressionist technique, using longer brushstrokes and moving the brushstrokes in varying directions.

Musee D Orsay:Van Gogh Self Portrait 1887 - Neo-Impressionism style
Vincent Van Gogh Self-Portrait, Autumn 1887

4. Van Gogh Self Portrait (1889)

This self portrait was Van Gogh’s last as he painted it only a few months before he shot himself and died and just before he left Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in southern France. 

In this self portrait, Van Gogh is wearing a formal suit. This was unusual for the shabbily dressed artist. His facial features are hard and emaciated. The dominant colors are green, light turquoise and a bright orange for his beard and hair. The swirling strokes in the background are similar to the swirls he painted with in his iconic painting Starry Night (also painted around this time).

Musee D Orsay: Van Gogh Self Portrait 1889
Musee D’Orsay: Van Gogh Self Portrait 1889

5. The Portrait of Dr Gachet – 1890

The Portrait of Dr. Gachet is considered one of Vincent Van Gogh’s more famous artworks. Having said that, it certainly isn’t as iconic as his Starry Starry Night  or world famous Sunflowers.

Van Gogh painted this portrait after he left the mental asylum in Saint Remy and during his final few weeks in Auvers-sur-Oise. Theo recommended to Vincent to continue his psychiatric treatment with Dr. Gachet in Auvers. Dr. Gachet was not only a doctor but also an amateur painter and a great supporter of artists. He had a reputation of treating quite a few of them.

As soon as Vincent Van Gogh met Dr. Gachet, a quick & trusting relationship developed between the two. He was much happier under the care of Gachet than he in the asylum in Saint Remy.

Van Gogh painted Dr. Gachet twice and finished both of them in June, 1890. Van Gogh was happy with these two portraits. He felt that they accurately captured his melancholy facial expression. Some art critics believe that Dr. Gachet’s sad face may be more of a projection of Van Gogh’s state of mind, as only six weeks later, he shot & killed himself.

Musee D'Orsay: Van Gogh Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1889)
Musee D’Orsay: Van Gogh Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1889)

6. The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise

Dr. Gachet advised Van Gogh to use his art as a way of releasing and expressing emotional stress. Vincent responded to this advise by churning out nearly one painting a day. During his nine weeks in Auvers he painted obsessively, completing around seventy seven artworks. That was more than one painting a day!! It was his most prolific period.

Van Gogh often went out into the village and countryside to work in the open air and paint.The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise painting was one of them.

Musee D'Orsay:Van Gogh painting of the Church in Auvers-sur-Oise
Musee D’Orsay:Van Gogh painting of the Church in Auvers-sur-Oise

For more information about where to see Van Gogh’s artworks, how to travel in his footsteps, where to find Van Gogh exhibitions and brilliant novels written about him, see the articles below: