The objects painted by Vincent van Gogh were often ordinary; but his paintings were not. They always possessed life and soul, whether a portrait, a still life, or a landscape. Beginning his artistic career at the age of 27, he produced more than 1,600 paintings and drawings during his short life. Always ready to create when he stood before a blank canvas, he once wrote his brother, Theo, that he was constantly full of ideas for paintings.
Early in his career, Van Gogh's paintings were dark and sedate. But as his art study and travels expanded, so did his use of color. The influence of Rubens and Japanese printmakers slowly impressed upon him the ``emotional value of brighter colors.''
He was introduced to French Impressionism through Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, and Degas in 1886, when he went to live in Paris. The dark browns and grays quickly disappeared from his palette, to be replaced by brilliant colors. By placing complementary colors next to one another (e.g., yellow-violet) or by using the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) side by side, he found he could create a startling effect.
Van Gogh escaped the city life for Arles, in the south of France, in 1888. The light and color of Provence provided a setting conducive to his best-known works: ``Still Life: Vase with Sunflowers,'' ``Van Gogh's Bedroom,'' and ``The Night Caf'e,'' as well as the painting shown here, ``Still Life with Potatoes in Yellow Dish.''
In this painting, the yellow highlights of the potatoes echo the brilliant sunflower-yellow of the dish. The shadow of the dish is a violet-blue mixed with white; the background is a warm light golden brown.