The Colour and the Light: Van Gogh & Gauguin

This course will explore the paintings of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, whose work redefined the possibilities of art, and has gone on to inspire entire art movements. Van Gogh and Gauguin’s careers will be discussed in tandem, as the two men maintained a continuous correspondence, briefly sharing a studio which dramatically ended with van Gogh cutting off his ear. 


Course outline

Week 1: Introduction and Impressionism

Our first class will provide an overview of the socio-political context of 19th century France, a turbulent time of violence and unrest, which impacts the art that was made and how it was viewed. Within this period, we will look at the Impressionists who challenged the accepted conventions of painting.


Week 2: Post Impressionism

Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat and Cezanne are often regarded as ‘Post Impressionists’, painters who extrapolated from the principles of Impressionism and developed in their own directions. This class will focus on the early careers of van Gogh and Gauguin, and the ways that they were influenced by the Parisian avant-garde art scene.


Week 3: Studio of the South in anticipation and Japonisme

This week we will look at van Gogh’s work and aspirations in Arles, and the ways in which he and other artists responded to art from Japan.


Week 4: Studio of the South

Gauguin and van Gogh live and work together for a brief but incredibly productive time in Arles, and we will discuss a number of works that they made during this time. We will be able to compare their very different approaches to the same subject matter.


Week 5: Late Gauguin

This week we will follow Gauguin from Arles to Tahiti, and consider his output from this part of his career, which forms the basis of the Symbolist movement.


Week 6: Late van Gogh

Van Gogh’s incredibly expressive late work will be discussed in our final week, and examples of his ongoing legacy.

Learning Outcomes

Learners will have a more comprehensive understanding of van Gogh and Gauguin’s work, as well as a familiarity with the wider artistic contexts of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Learners will also have visual analysis skills which can be applied to any visual material.

Who should attend?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in art. No prior knowledge is necessary.



  • 6 x Tuesdays 12:30-2:30pm, 25 February - 31 March
  • $210.00 incl. GST
  • The University of Auckland, City Campus
  • Presented by Linda Yang

Seminar presenter

Linda Yang

Linda Yang

Professional Teaching Fellowship

Linda Yang completed a Professional Teaching Fellowship in Art History at the University of Auckland, where she previously attained her Masters in Art History. Linda has also completed an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and was an Educator at the Auckland Art Gallery.

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