The obverse depicts Starry Night, painted in 1889, with zircon crystals of orange, yellow and green set into the nighttime sky as stars, and much of the famous painting portrayed in color using the mint’s own colorization process. Since 1941 the original Starry Night has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Widely hailed as Van Gogh’s magnum opus, the painting has been reproduced countless times and is one of the most best-known paintings in the world. A profile portrait of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, titular head of state of Niue, facing left, as well as the denomination and date of issue are also present.
The reverse features two more of Van Gogh’s masterworks. Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, from the famous “Sunflowers” series of paintings, is shown in full color. This particular painting is held in the collection of the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, Germany. One of the Sunflowers made international headlines in 1987 when Japanese insurance giant Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance of Tokyo purchased it for a then-record $40 million! The second painting represented is a self-portrait of the artist with a brush, positioned so that he appears to be regarding and signing Vase with Twelve Sunflowers. His famous artistic signature, “Vincent”, his surname, and the dates of his birth and death are also indicated.
Vincent Van Gogh, A Disturbed Genius
Van Gogh was born in Zundert, the Netherlands in 1853. The tumult of his life is the stuff of legend, having entering the popular consciousness through books, plays, movies and song. Van Gogh’s relationship with his brother Theo, the effect that he and Paul Gauguin had on each other’s work, and his descent into madness (including cutting off part of his ear), culminating in his suicide, have all been documented and analyzed for over a century. The 1956 Hollywood motion picture Lust for Life, starring Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh and Anthony Quinn as Gauguin, and directed by Vincente Minnelli, won three Academy Awards. Don McLean’s song “Vincent”, which opens with the phrase, “Starry, starry night...” from 1971 was an international pop hit.
Despite his short and tragic life, Van Gogh was a prolific artist. It is an absurd irony that Van Gogh created over 2,000 works of art (including about 900 paintings and about 1,100 drawings and sketches), none of which can be had for less than six figures, and yet during his lifetime he managed to sell only one. Many art historians now consider Van Gogh to be the first creator of Outsider Art, nearly a century before the term was coined.
Perhaps the most famous painter in the world, Vincent Van Gogh’s style is at once unique and instantly recognizable. Often classified as a Post-Impressionist, but not neatly fitting into any labeled category, his vibrant colors and bold brush strokes transcended Impressionism, setting the stage for new ways of picturing the world, including Expressionism, Fauvism and Modernism.
Niue is a small island nation in the South Pacific. Although it is completely self-governing and independent, it remains in free association with New Zealand, a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, hence the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on its coinage. The country is located about 1,450 miles northeast of New Zealand. It is closest to Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. It is one of the largest coral islands in the world, with a total area of 260 square kilometers. Niueans are predominantly Polynesian; most are bilingual, speaking both Niuean and English.