Death’s Head Moth (1889) by Vincent van Gogh

Death's Head Moth - Vincent van Gogh - 1889

Artwork Information

TitleDeath's Head Moth
ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumChalk on Paper
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Location CreatedArles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France
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About Death's Head Moth

Vincent van Gogh, the renowned post-impressionist artist, created a striking piece titled “Death’s Head Moth” in 1889. This work was inspired by a giant peacock moth that he encountered in the garden of the hospital in Saint-Rémy, France. Initially hesitant to paint the moth due to the necessity of killing it for a model, which he found regrettable given its beauty, van Gogh eventually decided to proceed using his drawing as a reference.

The painting is notable for its detailed depiction and vibrant coloration, featuring shades of black, grey, white, and hints of carmine and olive green. Despite van Gogh referring to it as a ‘death’s-head moth’ and illustrating what appeared to be a skull on its back, the insect in question was actually a giant peacock moth, characterized by only stripes in that area.

Van Gogh’s fascination with moths and butterflies extended beyond their aesthetic appeal; he saw them as symbols of hope and rebirth, themes he often explored in his letters. The “Death’s Head Moth” painting, along with many other works by van Gogh, can be admired at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which houses the largest collection of his artworks.

The “Death’s Head Moth” has been displayed in various exhibitions around the world, reflecting van Gogh’s enduring legacy and the widespread appreciation for his art. These exhibitions have taken place in cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vienna, Tokyo, and Ōsaka, among others, allowing audiences from different cultures to experience the depth and personal expression van Gogh infused into each of his paintings.

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