Small Things Brought Together — The Greatness of Van Gogh

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”  – Vincent Van Gogh

Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to see an exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings while they were on loan to the St. Louis Art Museum. I will never forget the feelings I experienced as I stood before his works. They truly took my breath away.

starry-nightVan Gogh has always been one of my favorite artists, Like many others, I love his “sunflower” paintings — he made eight of them — and of course, “Starry Night” has risen to iconic status. Prints of the famous work he created in 1889 while in the asylum at St. Remy grace the walls of many homes, and the painting has been the inspiration for books, music and films. It’s even possible to get a Van Gogh coloring book. And for an evening’s entertainment you might rent the cheesy 1999 movie, Starry Night in which Van Gogh returns to life — in modern-day California. Lousy reviews, but a lot of laughs and a few touching moments, too.

Vincent’s Colors – The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Vincent Van Gogh – The Starry Night by Richard Thompson

The Starry Night by Neil Waldman

Van Gogh’s life continues to inspire others in many ways, such as through this art and creative writing lesson plan for patients at the Mississippi State Hospital. This slideshow was compiled by artist Anthony DeFatta, who has dealt with mental illness not only in his own life but in teaching art to other adults with mental illness.

starry-night-over-the-rhoneI often remind myself of Van Gogh’s words, his reminder that a series of small things can lead to greatness. Just as he painted many sunflowers, he painted many irises, and many self-portraits. He also painted more than one star-filled scene at night.

I love “Starry Night Over the Rhone” which is similar to the painting he made in St. Remy but which includes the addition of human figures.

Yet another night scene is the “Café Terrace at Night”. Both of these works were painted in 1888 in the city of Arles.

cafe-terrace-at-nightEach of these paintings illustrate the compositional element of repetition. We see the many stars in the sky, and we find other repeated notes, buildings, reflections, tables and chairs, the pattern of stones.

Repetition is present in many of Van Gogh’s works, and it shows in his approach to painting, as well, and this is what I want most to remember in my own art. We learn through a series of small steps.

We try, we fail, we learn, we grow. We draw the same sketches again and again. We paint favorite subjects over and over. We learn the elements of art and composition and look for places where repetition might make a painting stronger.

By these small steps, we create our own works of art, and that is, indeed, a great thing. Art is its own reward. It’s interesting to remember that Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime yet his influence continues to inspire new generations of artists.



  1. What I like about the cafe terrace is many things, but my favorite part is you can keep walking down that corridor past the cafe. It is very mysterious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It leads to a dark place where anything might be…we can turn a corner, and who knows what will be waiting for us. It’s always fun when a painting can spark the imagination, and I think the café scene does that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! That is exactly what I am trying to say. I don’t think I would walk it alone though. Jack the Ripper comes to mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What great lessons – as a newbie to art – I never really studied any of the “greats” – something I must do and have great interest in doing. So wonderful to find so many new things to discover in life even as we grow older! 🙂 Thanks for sharing Judith.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my favorite artists! And a nice perspective on what we can learn from his work, it reminds me of a quote, ‘a poem is never finished, only abandoned’, we can always keep improving and learning! It’s really awesome when you think about it! Also thanks for liking my latest poem! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m going to Arles this fall and, although I’ll try to avoid the tourist traps, I can’t wait to see everything in the light that inspired many of Van Gogh’s most famous works. Doing most of my work under cloudy Portland skies I have come to appreciate the difference good light quality can make to your mood and your work.

    Liked by 1 person

I'd Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s