Return to the main Vincent van Gogh Gallery page

Can anyone give me any information regarding the relationship between Van Gogh's religious beliefs and his paintings?

José Navarro of Utrera, Spain submits this essay . . . . . .


Vincent van Gogh was a painter who transmitted his own feelings to his paintings. Feelings depend on character and this one depends on many factors, one of them is education.

Vincent, son of a protestant minister, was educated in Christian religion, and, after adult, studied the Holy Bible very deep. He developed a high sense of charity, love for the poor, the ills, charity lived in a very high degree during his stay in Borinage with miners. He gave his clothes, his money, his bed to poor, cared of a miner wounded, taught children, etc.

He read a lot of social literature by Zola, Dickens, Michelet, and others, developing a sense of preoccupation for farmers, weavers, and prostitutes...

In his conscience always remained a background of religiosity; he was critic with the church as an organisation, but never denied of God. He had a transcendental idea of Life and Art, and his religious background always remained in his inside. Remember, for example, that during some of his attacks he had absurd visions or nightmares related to religion.

Most of his work is related to humble people and nature. His paintings of farmers, weavers, are full of respect for them, full of love, of tenderness and force to denounce their situation. Where these feelings come from? From his religious ideas or his social ideas? Who is able to distinguish? It is possible that his religious formation opened the door to his social ideas.

About the paintings where nature is represented many critics see in them certain pantheism.

Apart the spirit Vincent put in all his works, there are some paintings related directly with religious theme, like Still Life with Bible (F117; JH 946), The Raising of Lazaro (F677; JH 1972) and The Good Samaritan (F633; JH1974) all of them have a charge of symbolism.

José Navarro

Utrera (Sevilla) España, Enero 1999

Return to Van Gogh Online Forum page

Return to main Van Gogh Gallery page