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What color eyes did Vincent Van Gogh have?

Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most influential and famous painters of the post-impressionist era. Known for paintings like The Starry Night and Sunflowers, Van Gogh created over 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings during his short career. While his works are recognizable around the world, some details about the artist himself remain a mystery – including the exact color of his eyes.

The Common Belief

For many years, the commonly accepted belief was that Van Gogh had blue eyes. This was likely due to the fact that in many self-portraits, his eyes appear to be a light blue or grayish blue color. In a letter to his sister Wilhelmina, Vincent himself even stated “My own portrait is done in tones of green and red ochre, the hair orange, the beard a little yellow, the hands flesh color, the eyes light blue-green.” This suggests perhaps his eye color was a light blue-green hazel.

The Evidence for Green Eyes

However, more recent research and examination of Van Gogh’s paintings, letters and other accounts have led some experts to conclude his eyes were actually green. There are several key pieces of evidence supporting this theory:

  • In many of Van Gogh’s self-portraits, his eyes and face are tinted with greenish hues, suggesting a green eye color when the tint is accounted for.
  • In a letter to friend Émile Bernard in 1888, Van Gogh described his own appearance, stating he had “light brown hair and a pale green look.”
  • Van Gogh’s doctor Félix Rey described his appearance, noting his red beard and “greenish” eyes.
  • His sister Wilhelmina was quoted describing Vincent’s “piercing green eyes” that were difficult for her to meet at times.

Taking into account this evidence and the greenish tints in many self-portraits, many experts today believe Vincent Van Gogh most likely had green eyes.

Why the Confusion?

If Van Gogh’s eyes were green, why were they for so long commonly thought to be blue? There are a few potential reasons:

  • In some self-portraits, Van Gogh painted his eyes as light blue or blue-green, leading to assumptions about his real eye color.
  • Blue eyes were more rare at the time than green, so they were more notable and thus potentially more referenced in descriptions of Van Gogh’s appearance.
  • The greenish tints in many portraits were not accounted for when attempting to determine his true eye color.

Additionally, eye color can often appear to change shades depending on lighting conditions, the colors worn, and other factors. So it’s possible Van Gogh’s eyes appeared light blue at times but were in fact green.


While for many years it was widely believed Van Gogh had blue eyes, additional evidence and examination of his self-portraits and descriptions of his appearance strongly suggest his eyes were green. The greenish tints in many of his paintings, along with direct quotes referring to his green eyes, make a convincing case that this famous Post-Impressionist painter had green eyes. However, the eye color of great artists ultimately matter little compared to the incredible legacy of art they left behind, which continues to inspire people around the world every day.