Is Vincent Van Gogh An Abstract Artist?

Many people wonder what art movement Vincent Van Gogh was part of. They want to know if Vincent Van Gogh was considered an Abstract artist.

Vincent Van Gogh was not considered an Abstract Artist but regarded as a Post-Impressionism artist. He is known to have admired the Impressionist artist, but he never saw himself as part of the group of Impressionists. Van Gogh had a unique style and choice of colors for his paintings.

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Vincent Van Gogh Was Not An Abstract Artist

Vincent Van Gogh is not considered an abstract artist. The Abstract Art movement started in the early 1900s; Vincent Van Gogh’s untimely death was 1890.

The Tate defines Abstract art as:

“Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.”


Abstract art is about the separation of something from something else. Here are a few things that Abstract Art will usually include:

  • Geometric Shapes – Abstract art uses geometric shapes or gestural marks with no external visual reality. In other words, the art can use shapes and marks that do not look real or have a meaning. An example of the work of an abstract artist would be Wassily Kandinsky’s art.
  • Used Colors, Lines, Tones, And Textures – Abstract artists would also use elements of form such as colors, lines, tones, and textures for their artwork.
  • Moral Dimension – Some abstract art will include a moral dimension in the art—things like order, purity, simplicity, and spirituality. An example of this would be the art by the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint which had a lot of spiritual element in her art.
  • Part Of Modern Art – Abstract art was formed in the 1900s as part of the modern art movement.

Abstract art is an art form that is very different than the type of art that Vincent Van Gogh created. Vincent Van Gogh’s art was built upon the Impressionism movement; his art is considered Post-Impressionist.

Vincent Van Gogh Was An Post – Impressionist Artist

Post-Impressionism was a movement that started in France; it was an extension of the Impressionism movement. The Post-Impressionists rejected all the restrictions placed on Impressionism art.

Post-Impressionism art was a highly personal style; we can see this in Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork. He did not try to copy or imitate what the Impressionists were doing but had his unique look, colors, and style.

Post-Impressionism built upon the admiration of the Impressionism movement but also showed changes within the movement and style of art. Tate defined Post-impressionism as:

“Post-impressionism is a term which describes the changes in impressionism from about 1886, the date of last Impressionist group show in Paris.”


The Post-Impressionists accepted Impressionism; in fact, many admired the Impressionists. The Post-Impressionists changed their art as it was not purely Impressionist art.

The four foremost Post-Impressionism artists are Paul Cezzane, Paul Gauguin, George Seurat, and Vincent Van Gogh. All four are considered to be significant leaders in the Post-Impressionism movement.

Vincent Van Gogh would paint from nature as the Impressionists did, but he also developed a highly personal use of his colors and brushwork. His work was often highly subjective and responded to his emotional and inner feelings.

Van Gogh And The Impressionism Movement

We know that Van Gogh admired Impressionism artists. In letters to his brother Theo and others, he made several favorable comments about Claude Monet and other Impressionist artists but never said he was part of the group.

In a letter to Emile Bernard, his friend and fellow Post-Impressionism artist and writer, Vincent Van Gogh wrote this on the 26 November 1889:

“I’m not saying that one may not take the risk after a whole manly life of searching, of fighting hand-to-hand with reality, but as far as I’m concerned I don’t want to rack my brains over that sort of thing. And the whole year, have fiddled around from life, hardly thinking of Impressionism or of this or that.
However, once again I’m allowing myself to do stars too big, &c., new setback, and I’ve enough of that.
So at present am working in the olive trees, seeking the different effects of a grey sky against yellow earth, with dark green note of the foliage; another time the earth and foliage all purplish against yellow sky, then red ochre earth and pink and green sky. See, that interests me more than the so-called abstractions.”

Vincent Van Gogh’s Letter To Emile Bernard, 26 November 1889

We learn that Van Gogh knew of the Impressionists but did not consider himself fully part of the movement. Van Gogh would continue to paint how he wanted and saw fit, not how the Impressionists or others thought he should paint.

He painted nature not as it was, but as he saw it, such as making stars bigger than they are or changing the colors he saw in nature.

Vincent Van Gogh was not an Abstract artist nor an Impressionist artist. Instead, Van Gogh is considered one of the leading figures of the Post-Impressionism movement.

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How Did Vincent Van Gogh’s Paintings Become Famous?

Vincent van Gogh’s painting became famous because his sister-in-law took it upon herself after his death and the death of her husband Theo to find a way to get his paintings and name out to the world. She was brilliant and savvy in how she did this. By the time she died in 1925, Vicent van Gogh was world renown.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading How Did Vincent Van Gogh’s Paintings Become Famous?.

Why Is Van Gogh Considered Such a Great Artist?

Many things make Vincent Van Gogh unique and great as an artist. He had a great way to use color in his heart, but more than that, he was an artist who set and paved the way, and his brushstroke technique used color and his design ability. What is interesting about all this he did this as a self-taught artist.

By clicking here, you can discover more by reading Why Is Van Gogh Considered Such a Great Artist?

What Was The Impact Of Vincent Van Gogh On The Art World?

Van Gogh used color, form, and emotions in his art. He had a bright palette that was individualized for his time. Even though he did not see a lot of success during his life after he died, the impact of his art can be seen in both the Expressionism and Fauvism movements that were taking place in Europe.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading What Was The Impact Of Vincent Van Gogh On The Art World?