Van Gogh – the man, the myth, the muse

(c) 2018 CBS Films
(c) CBS Films, 2018

2019 is starting out with a bang for art lovers. With two exciting feature films to be released soon about Vincent Van Gogh – AT ETERNITY’S GATE and LOVING VINCENT – it’s worth examining other past films central to the topic.


Documentary, 2016, China

Director Yu Haibo charts the true-life journey of a Van Gogh copy artist from replica painter to realising their own creative potential. It’s a fascinating behind the scenes of the country’s mass manufacture of art for everyday consumption. These copy artists in their thousands in some places are tasked with producing hundreds of paintings per month to supply souvenir, home decor and department stores globally.

China’s Van Goghs doesn’t simply dwell on the differences between these 21st-century Chinese workers and the 19th-century Dutch maestro; its insight is that they are kindred spirits separated merely by time, geography and social class. Veering sharply away from the stereotype of Chinese laborers as a faceless mass seeking a better quality of life, China’s Van Goghs explores their desire for spiritual fulfillment, too. Source: The Hollywood Reporter


Feature, 1991, France

This bio-drama told the story of the last remaining days of Van Gogh – his loves and everyday moments, rather than about the art and genius of the man. VAN GOGH received 12 nominations at the Cesar Awards in 1991 – taking out the Best Actor category. Director Maurice Pialat was also nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival the same year.

Pialat fills the film with iconic Impressionist amusements (dances at riverside cafés, girls at the piano, rowers in straw hats) as well as with the painter’s rugged pleasures, including his wild outburst of drunken joy at a Montmartre dance hall, which plays like the celestial flare of a dying star. Richard Brody, The New Yorker


Feature, 1990, United States

Robert Altman’s portrayal of the artist Vincent and his entrepreneurial brother Theo was a hit with critics, scoring a 4.5 from Roger Ebert. Tim Roth played the struggling artist in what was a physical role – ready to tear anyone to shreds, who spoke ill of his genius.

Altman’s approach in “Vincent & Theo” is a very immediate, intimate one. He would rather show us things happening than provide themes and explanations. He is most concerned with the relationship that made the art possible, the way in which Theo, the younger brother, essentially became Vincent’s parent and patron.

Coming soon…



What are your favourite films about the artist?


  1. Although I love the work of Vincent Van Gogh I haven’t seen any of these films and have only heard of ‘Loving Vincent’. I have seen the series ‘Vincent: the full story’ which is part of the Art History collection featuring Waldemar Januszczak, and it was fascinating.


    • Oo must check that out too. I’m hoping Loving Vincent will have some theatrical outlet. It’s only showing at a local arts centre so far, so maybe check the GCAC.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Will do! They sometimes show them at the little theatre in Sanctuary Cove. The series was shown on the ABC years ago and I bought the DVDs ‘The Art History Collection’. It covers the Baroque period, the Impressionists and the secret meaning behind Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel.


    • Love that ciphering of symbols in art – what kicked off the Da Vinci Code right? 🙂 Started to read a book many moons ago about art detectives – something along the same lines as well as trying to find stolen art

      Liked by 1 person

    • Me too! Hidden messages and mysteries involving the art world always interest me. I read one years ago that was based on Caravaggio, his affair and a murder – it was a great read.


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