Discuss van Gogh's complex relationship with his family, particularly his brother Theo. To what extent did Vincent distance himself from his family and/or embrace his heritage?
To what extent did van Gogh's nationality influence his life, his art, and his outsider status? Is his nationality crucial to his artistic development? Does it matter that he wasn't French like the rest of his avant-garde colleagues?
Discuss van Gogh's obsession with portrait painting in light of his life and his personality. Why did the portrait fascinate him so, especially towards the end of his life? What did he mean when he said he wanted his portraits to be like "apparitions"? Cite specific examples of work.
Discuss the development of the landscape in van Gogh's art, from his early work in The Netherlands through his transcendent final double-square landscapes from Auvers? Does van Gogh ever really achieve abstraction with his landscapes?
What role did religion, spirituality, and faith play in van Gogh's life and art? Discuss the evolution of his faith, from childhood to death, citing specific works if possible.
Why do you think van Gogh was so preoccupied with peasant portraiture and documentation for so much of his life, even though he himself came from a decidedly middle-class family? How does this preoccupation relate to his ideas about religion, place, and the value of life?
Do you think van Gogh's psychological troubles, and/or his spiritual and artistic life, was really triggered by his first failed love affair with Eugenie Loyer in London? What part did romance play in van Gogh's life and work? Discuss his view of women, in light of his early interest in Michelet's writings as well as his depiction of women in his art? Cite specific paintings as examples.