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Anton Mauve and Van Gogh: The Master and His Pupil

19th August 2020 Print

Vincent van Gogh is widely considered one of the greatest masters of his craft even more than a century after his death. However, what many of Van Gogh’s fans may not know is that the artist had a tutor of his own. Anyone who has ever seen an Anton Mauve painting has seen the work of the man who is widely credited with drawing Van Gogh into the craft of painting that he’d be so well known for. 

Who Is Anton Mauve as an Artist? 

As an artist, Anton Mauve is widely renowned for his contributions to the movement of Realism. His art is also seen credited under the initial “A. Mauve” and the acronym “A.M.” as well as fully signing his name as Anton Mauve. 


In particular, Mauve is praised for his use of color in his paintings which made the scenes he painted just that much more detailed and realistic. 

He was also one of the leading members of the Hague School which was a group of talented artists that both worked and lived in The Hague, a city in the Netherlands, between 1860 and 1890. Many of the artists in this group also fell under the umbrella of realism and were deeply inspired by the Barbizon School of France which was active from around 1830 to 1870, slightly overlapping with The Hague School. 

The Hague School was also occasionally referred to as the Gray School because many of the painters opted for darker, more somber tones. Mauve’s art personified this well as he particularly favored these somber tones in his work. 

Later in his life, Mauve would help found other art societies to carry on his practices, his legacy, and even just foster artistic communities. He personally founded the Hollandsche Teekenmaatschappij or, in plainer English, the Dutch Drawing Society. He also helped to found the Pulchri Studio which was also in Hague. 

Impressively, all of this was accomplished before Mauve’s death at only the age of 49 on February 5, 1888. 

Learning More About Anton Mauve’s Art


The Dutch painter was well-known for his depictions of outdoor scenes and landscapes. He often showed the interactions between peasants and animals or even just these subjects interacting with the world around them. 

One of his favorite subjects that he returned to time and time again was sheep. He committed to canvas both images of sheep returning to and going from places as well as a mix of closeup studies of their features and far away perspectives that capture a larger scene. One of his most famous paintings in this strain is The Return of the Flock, Laren. 

Interestingly, his extensive collection of paintings of sheep created a price differentiation. The scenes, especially among American buyers, were split up in price between images of “sheep going” and “sheep coming.” 

Of course, he had landscape pieces and pieces depicting scenes without sheep but his paintings of sheep were among his most popular. They were also among his most frequently painted subjects. 

The Relationship Between Anton Mauve and Vincent van Gogh


Mauve was married to Van Gogh’s cousin, Ariëtte Sophia Jeannette Carbentus. It seems that when he met Mauve, Van Gogh was almost immediately interested in him and his work. Van Gogh mentioned his brother-in-law in 152 separate letters both indirectly and by name. 

At the end of 1881, seven years before Mauve’s death, Van Gogh spent three weeks with his brother-in-law both in and out of his studio. It was during this time that Van Gogh first started to experiment with painting - a cause that would take up the next ten years of his life and earn him lasting fame. 

It wasn’t that Van Gogh wasn’t artistic before this period in his life, but rather that he focused on drawing instead of painting. Mauve helped him first learn to experiment with oil painting before moving on to teach him about watercolor. 

Even past these three weeks, Mauve continued to help his brother-in-law. He encouraged him and even lent him money to give him the opportunity to rent and furnish his very own studio to work in. 


As time passed, the relationship between the two men soured. Mauve started to grow distant and cold to his once-protege. Van Gogh described their falling out to his brother Theo van Gogh in which Mauve claimed that Van Gogh had a vicious demeanor and that their partnership was finished. This was likely due to a disagreement over a pregnant sex worker that Van Gogh had befriended named Clasina Maria Hornik.

Despite this, Van Gogh held Mauve in high regard. Even upon hearing of Mauve’s death, Van Gogh shared how distraught he was and laid claim to the influence that Mauve had over his work. 

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