Vincent Van Gogh: His Art and Life

Temple University

Matthew Palczynski holds a Ph.D. in art history and has been teaching at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art since 2004, where his focus is on vanguard art post-1850. He has lectured extensively at colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University, and at organizations such as Renaissance Weekend, The Barnes Foundation, Road Scholar, and the National Gallery of Art.



Why is Vincent van Gogh’s work so beloved?  His iconic images of flowers and trees tell us that he was an astute observer of nature, from up close. Similarly, his portraits and architectural subjects show an individual who thought deeply about his connection to those around him and his place in the grand scheme of the larger world. In this lecture, art historian Matthew Palczynski will explore how Van Gogh’s thoughtful work and letters reveal why he is one of the most psychologically minded artists in the pantheon.


Recommended Reading:

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh – Ronald de Leeuw, ed.

Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series), by Colta Ives et al


Discussion Questions:

  1. How are Van Gogh’s paintings related to his life and to his letters?
  2. In which ways was he an innovator?
  3. What do Van Gogh’s close observations reveal about his character?



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Susan Backer


Wonderfully personal presentation. Professor Palczynski was very clear in his presentation of Van Gogh’s work and his life. He helped us understand Vincente’s thinking through the quotes of his own writings, that one most likely would not find in descriptions of his work on a museum wall. Well done!

1 year ago
Nancy Gorka

Very enjoyable lecture – great slides with lots of different examples of his work – the excerpts from his letters provided an additional layer of understanding of his life

1 year ago
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