In Brief

Bringing van Gogh’s Life to the Big Screen at 12 Oil Paintings per Second

van gogh
A scene from the trailer of “Loving Vincent” (GIF via YouTube)

Described as “the world’s first feature-length painted animation,” a forthcoming film will tell the life story of Vincent van Gogh through over 120 of his own oil paintings. Loving Vincent, produced by the Oscar-winning animation studio Breakthru Films, brings together the skills of over 100 painters trained specifically to mimic van Gogh’s own technique and brushstrokes, with each frame composed of actual, hand-painted artworks. Together, they produced multiple versions of his works that each has subtle variations so that when stitched together, they form moving scenes, with every second of the film featuring a total of 12 oil paintings.

Although the directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman have yet to announce a release date, they shared a trailer last week that treats us to a stunning visual display. Van Gogh’s brushwork is especially suited to animation: his swirls and broad, fluid lines, which on canvas already give the illusion of motion, are now even more dynamic. The ripples created on screen make details such as water and smoke particularly hypnotic, constantly engaging the eye.

Over a year in production and backed through Kickstarter, the film draws its plot from over 800 of van Gogh’s own letters. It follows the painter’s troubled life up to his death in 1890, standing as a portrait of an artist as constructed through his own medium and creations.

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