First-Ever Fully Painted Film Brings Vincent Van Gogh’s Art To Life

Published June 7, 2017

The film will debut in France next week.

Van Gogh Movie Painter

FacebookKarolina Michalowska paints a shot of Dr. Gachet for “Loving Vincent.”

Vincent Van Gogh is likely the world’s most famous painter — fascinating not only for his incredible creations, but for the tortured life he lived beyond the easel.

It only makes sense, then, that a movie dedicated to exploring the troubling end to Van Gogh’s days should also be the world’s first fully painted film.

“Loving Vincent,” which will have its world premiere at a French film festival next week, was created with more than 65,000 oil paintings on more than 1,000 canvases.

“We shot the film with actors, and literally painted over it frame by frame,” the project’s website explains.

The actors either performed against a green screen or on a set made to look like one of Van Gogh’s paintings. The footage was then combined with computer animation, which gave the painting team a reference for their first frame.

They then created movement by animating every brush stroke they made.

Here’s a video on what spurned the idea for the film:

The process of creating and then executing this technique took six years and more than 100 painters. But, producers say, it was well worth the wait.

“The reason we made the film is not because we want it to be the first, or that we want to set any records,” the site reads. “It is because we believe that you cannot truly tell Vincent’s story without his paintings, so we needed to bring his paintings to life.”

Watch a time lapse of one of the paintings being created:

More than 120 of the artist’s most famous paintings are turned into scenes for the film — including his beloved “Starry Night.”

The creators ended up with 943 completed oil paintings, 200 of which will be auctioned off.

Meet some of the painters in this clip:

Though the process alone is compelling enough, the story the paintings seek to tell is equally engaging.

It’s an investigation into the artist’s suicide — historical accounts of which, the filmmakers thought, have never really added up.

The facts tell us this: on May 19, 1890, Van Gogh left the St. Remy Asylum having been cleared as cured. He traveled to a small village outside of Paris, painted 98 paintings in nine weeks, and then died by an apparently self-inflicted gunshot to the stomach.

“This always struck me as mysterious as well as tragic,” director Dorota Kobiela told Filmmaker Magazine.

“I mean, Vincent had been struggling for 8 years (he only started painting when he was 29) for recognition, and 1890 was the first time when he really was being recognized, in fact he became something of a star in the Paris art scene. He was fitter and healthier and had a more balanced life than at any time over the previous 15 years and he was close to his beloved brother, who had just had a son, who he had named after Vincent.

He was at the absolute height of his powers as a painter, and in his last letter he writes, ‘I still love life and art very much’… It just has always seemed curious to me, and I thought it would be curious for all those around him at the time.”

Well, we’re certainly intrigued, and can’t wait to see the final product. (Premiere dates in the U.S. have yet to be announced.)

Next, check out these 11 things you didn’t know about Van Gogh. Then, learn some of the most quirky traits of some of your favorite artists.

All That's Interesting
Established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together a dedicated staff of digital publishing veterans and subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science. From the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of the world, we seek out stories that bring our past, present, and future to life. Privately-owned since its founding, All That's Interesting maintains a commitment to unbiased reporting while taking great care in fact-checking and research to ensure that we meet the highest standards of accuracy.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.