I recently viewed the Van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and came away with new understanding and impressions of this well known master. I admit I knew or remembered very little about him before attending this exhibit other than that he was the famous artist who cut off his own ear and who had painted Starry Night and Sunflowers among many others. I always liked the intense colors of his paintings and the intricacy of his work.
His life story and the body of work was fascinating to behold in this exhibit which was segmented into various phases or periods of his artistic evolution. When I came home from this exhibit, the impressions it left on me ignited my curiosity and I looked up Van Gogh’s natal chart and decided I might share what I found here.
If the sight of a natal chart confuses you, you certainly aren’t alone, but one of the best and most interesting ways to study astrology is to look at famous or historical figures, so I encourage suspension of your reservations.
Reading more about this artist’s biography, I learned that he took up painting rather late in his life, at one point Van Gogh committed himself to a mental institution and while he was there, he created some of his best work. My favorite piece in this exhibit was this garden scene at the mental hospital where he stayed. It was said that he would set up his aisle outdoors and the other patients would take an interest in his work. My iphone photo of it below does not do it justice, but the colors in person made me feel serenely happy and glowing. Van Gogh himself was said to have reported that the people he met at the mental hospital were the kindest and most agreeable of people he had met anywhere in his life.
Vincent Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853. This puts his Sun in Aries, Moon in Sagitarius, with many planets and asteroids clustered tightly around the 10th/11th House and Midheaven which speaks to his broad influence on the whole world. I was especially interested to see Venus and Mars conjunct in Pisces, and Neptune in Pisces straddling Midheaven in the 9th House. There are no retrograde planets. Van Gogh’s chart shows Uranus at 6 Taurus. Currently, in 2019 we are at Uranus 5 Taurus, so we are currently only 1 degree away from the second return of this planet to where it was when Van Gogh was born. In other words, Uranus has made two complete cycles around the sun since Van Gogh’s birth, almost exactly.
Van Gogh’s earliest period of painting focused on laborers, and then went on to study the portraits of ordinary people. Van Gogh did a tremendous amount of sketching as well and many of those sketches were also displayed in the exhibit.
So many of his pieces incorporated wheat, or scenes from the countryside of common laborers. Below is a slideshow of the quick snapshots I took of a few of the pieces as I went through the exhibit.
There is so much to consider here. Let’s start with the overall idea with Uranus cycles. I recommend looking at what Richard Tarnas has to say. If I could sumamrize, Tarnas uses historical examples and ties them to the long cycles of the outer planets, Pluto, Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, and weaves their cycles into periods of human revolution throughout history, as well as periods of artistic renaissance, and periods of scientific innovation among others.
By Tarnas’ estimation, “Uranus-Pluto alignments mark a precise succession of the birth of historically crucial figures born during one alignment whose contributions flourish in close coincidence with subsequent alignments.” He mentions Van Gogh and Van Gogh’s relationship with Gauguin.
Van Gogh’s birth marks so well the arc of history in terms of “artistic revolution, heroic idealism, and erotic emancipation.” In addition, Van Gogh’s significant move to Paris and his meeting with Gauguin in 1885-1886 is marked by a Jupiter-Uranus alignment.
Those of us alive today all share with Van Gogh the experience of living through a period of Uranus in Taurus. Those who we might know who were alive during the Great Depression and the Second World War know Uranus in Taurus to even greater degree as they would now have completed the full cycle of Uranus around the sun and would be at least 84 years old or older and would have experienced this placement twice. Van Gogh was born with Uranus in Taurus, 2 Uranus cycles ago, or 168 years ago. He took his own life at age 37, putting him at the time of his death close to the beginning of the Uranus opposition of his life, also known as the mid-life crisis. The Uranus opposition is a common experience which everyone experiences between the ages of 37-41. This also would have put Uranus in the sign of Scorpio for him during his Uranus opposition. Probably not coincidentally, Scorpio is one of the more intense and transformative of the twelve zodiac signs to traverse. Perhaps it is stating the obvious to say that Van Gogh simply could not endure the intensity of the Uranus in Scorpio transit, the mid-life Uranus opposition, with his various mental and physical conditions. (Doctors has diagnosed him with a form of epilepsy in addition to his mental illness.)
I think the other main points of interest which stand out for me in Van Gogh’s natal chart are the Venus placement and Neptune placement in Pisces. Venus is the personal planet most closely associated with one’s aesthetic sense, and it is common for astrologers to look to the Venus placement for artists. Neptune is the planet most closely associated with mysticism and spirituality, or one’s relationship to the divine. Pisces is often considered one of the most spiritually-oriented, and perhaps also one of the more androgenous of the signs. I also learned at the exhibit that Van Gogh had studied seriously to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. He was known to study the bible intensely for hours.
In seeking out what other astrologers have to say about artists and their planetary placements, I found the following article interesting.
Artists and Astrology
The author studied the charts of a sample of artists and compared them to a control group to look for what showed up as common placements in the charts of artists. The author of the article points out that Cancer rising is a prominent trait for 13% of artists that were studied as opposed to 9% of control group. Van Gogh also has Cancer 21 on his ascendant, as well as Saturn in the 11th House, which occurred in 12% of artists sampled, as opposed to 7% in the control group according this this article.
I feel certain that this glance into Van Gogh’s life and his natal chart has only scratched the surface and that it is likely that so much more has already been written on this topic whether astrologically or otherwise but I hope you enjoyed sharing this glimpse with me. I have a new appreciation for this troubled soul who left such a huge mark on the world through his devotion, innovation and serious dedication to his art.
Tarnas, Richard. (2007). Cosmos and Psyche. New York: Penguin Group.
Photos of Van Gogh’s works taken in person by L. Gabelsberg at Museum of Fine Arts Houston, June 23, 2019
Link to Van Gogh Exhibit Video, MFA Houston
Side Note: For more about our current Uranus in Taurus cycle specifically, which will last from 2018-2026, you can read the following article about Uranus in Taurus.
*Many astrologers talk about the transformation or revolution of monetary resources, currency, or the disruption or changes to banking. Perhaps some look to block chain or other forms of currency as innovation or even disruptive forms of change/revolt.