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Vincent and Theo: Life Stories in the Film

I learned the story of the artist Vincent and his brother Theo after watching the film on their life stories. Vincent van Gough lived between 1853 and 1890, and his closest brother Theo, who lived between 1857 and 1891, worked in tandem, with the former being the artist and the latter an art dealer (Altman, 1990). Vincent and Theo grew up in a small village in Brabant, Netherlands. They both commenced their professions at the international art firm Goupil & Cie, where Brussels took Theo in 1873 and Vincent was taken by Hague in 1869. Theo’s career thrived, but Vincent got dismissed in 1876 and had to look for another job.

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Vincent decided to take a career path in art; Theo supported him in this decision and was willing to stay with him in Paris to make an acquaintance with colorful contemporary French painting. Having grown tired of the big city life, Vincent moved to the south of France, where he lived and worked with other artists in the “Yellow House” in Arles (Altman, 1990). Vincent focused on agrarian scenes of peasants during his stay in the northern village in Nuenen between 1883 and 1885. His first masterpiece was The Potato Eaters in 1885, which depicted a farm family seated around a table with a heaping plate of potatoes.

Vincent and Theo’s motive reveals the dominance of the Impasto technique used in the late 19th century by artists to accomplish their artworks. The Impasto technique involves putting a thick layer of paint on canvas, which adds a unique texture to the painting so that the brushstrokes gain a strong element of conspicuity. Vincent was explicitly known for thickly undiluted, laid-on paint brushstrokes or palette knives (Altman, 1990). In the late nineteenth century, artists’ training occurred in art schools, but most artists improved their skills through self-training and sought guidance from more experienced artists. For instance, Vincent first studied drawing at the Brussels Academy and then read art manuals and books. He also learned some skills in figure paint at the Antwerp Academy in Belgium in late 1885.

Patronage of artists before the nineteenth century involved wealthy and powerful patrons sponsoring the artists to produce artworks they would sell and earn a commission. This changed in the late nineteenth century onwards as artists would now create art and find a buyer by themselves. Vincent was funded by his brother Theo who marketed his paintings (Altman, 1990). The art market in this period involved an agreement between the artist and art dealer who would buy the artwork and resale it at a higher price. For instance, as an art dealer, Theo helped his brother, Vincent, market his artworks.

Art criticism escalated in the late nineteenth century as artists began making artworks without the certainty of selling them. Artists were now freelance and free-spirited producers for the market, which was not always there. Good art was appreciated and bought at a reasonable price, unlike shady artworks. Their artworks of Vincent were not much appreciated, and he was not famous at his time until later after his death (Altman, 1990). Artistic temperament and freedom of expression were guided by the democracy unleashed on individuals. Public response to art depended on how impeccable the artworks were. Vincent received overwhelming rejection and was only able to sell one of his many paintings in his lifetime.

I like the film because it accurately depicts the timeline and events in the artist’s life. It is educative and full of moral lessons. The film also lightened the prevailing atmosphere with minor mad scenes as depicted in the written narratives of the artist’s life. I enjoyed the film considering the events unveiling Vincent’s life. The element of suspense displayed in the film also leaves the viewer with questions such as the nature of Theo’s motivation to help Vincent in light of his chronic mental illness.


Altman, R. (Director). (1990). Vincent & Theo [Film]. Rai. Web.

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