Showcasing Art History

Portraying van Gogh: biography, mythology and new research [On campus]

11 January - 15 March 2022

Van Gogh Self Portrait with bandaged ear i Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © The Courtauld

Showcasing Art History

Season 2021-22

As the programme name implies, the series aims to share the latest art-historical thinking, and The Courtauld’s excellence in teaching and research, with the wider public.  The lectures are open to everyone over the age of 18, aim for a lively delivery and are given by members of the faculty, by associates and alumni of The Courtauld, and by other eminent scholars.

Spring term 2022

Portraying van Gogh: biography, mythology and new research

11 January – 15 March 2022
NB In January, if developments relating to the Omicron variant necessitate greater public health measures, some, or all of the spring term lectures will be taught online. In the meantime, we have further restricted numbers in the lecture theatre, to allow for physical distancing, and have closed bookings for the on campus option; you may, of course, still book for the online course.

What is left to say on the world’s most famous painter? Coinciding with the first ever exhibition devoted to Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits across his entire career, to be held at The Courtauld Gallery from February to May 2022, this course seeks to challenge conventional thinking and present new research on van Gogh. It aims to go beyond the myth to rediscover the man and the artist.

The perception of van Gogh as a tortured painter and lone genius began shortly after his death and has taken over a century to dispel. Many assumptions remain. Delivered by a range of specialists, the lectures will showcase the findings of recent archival and technical research to give a greater and richer understanding of van Gogh’s life and artistic ambitions.

The course will be divided into five sections of two lectures each. The first section will be devoted to a reassessment of van Gogh’s biography, which has so often shaped the way that his works, and his self-portraits in particular, have been (mis)understood. It will be followed by in-depth looking at some of his greatest paintings to get into the mind of the artist and will include new technical insights into his artistic practice. Van Gogh will then be placed into a wider context; with lectures re-examining his network and group of friends to demonstrate how van Gogh was very much embedded in the French art world.

The last two sections will consider his legacy among artists and critics, as well as the forces that shaped our modern understanding of van Gogh. Of particular interest will be the role played by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, the artist’s sister-in-law, who publicised van Gogh’s importance after his death and almost single-handedly steered the market for his works. A long overlooked figure, she was the focus of a ten-year research project at the van Gogh Museum, which has culminated in the recent publication of a fascinating biography. Finally, the lectures will investigate the shaping of van Gogh’s myth throughout the 20th– and 21st century in film and key exhibitions.

Our speakers are: Dr Karen Serres (The Courtauld Gallery); Dr Martin Bailey (Van Gogh specialist, independent scholar and curator); Professor Aviva Burnstock (The Courtauld); Professor James Hall (University of Southampton); Dr Hans Luijten (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam); Dr Caroline Levitt (The Courtauld); Dr Anne Puetz (The Courtauld); Dr Natalia Murray (The Courtauld)

Moderator: Dr Anne Puetz (The Courtauld)

11 Jan - 3 Oct 2023

Tuesdays, 19:00 - c.20:30

£195 (discounts apply if you book more than 1 term)

Vernon Square 

This event is delivered both on campus and online; for the online delivery version of this course please see the bottom of this page.

This lecture series includes: ​lectures at our Vernon Square campus, followed by discussion and drinks, pre-course and further reading, and handout materials on our Virtual Learning Environment.

There is a single online booking form for all terms and this form includes discounted rates for booking multiple terms.

Important notice: We are aware of an ongoing issue for Gmail account users. If you are using a Gmail address you may find that emails from The Courtauld are not always recognised and may go to your spam folder. You may therefore need to check and release emails; and enable The Courtauld in your filter settings/mark emails from The Courtauld as genuine and not spam.

The Vernon Square Campus

The Courtauld
Vernon Square
Penton Rise
London WC1X 9EW

Public Transport

Tube stations: King’s Cross and Euston.
Train stations: King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston.


We offer disabled parking at our Vernon Square campus. We offer disabled parking at our Vernon Square campus. Please email in the first instance.

Further terms in the programme