Image and notoriety of Van Gogh

Since 2012 the Paris Region Tourist Board has been involved in an ambitious project for the development and promotion of the impressionist offer in a broad sense which in particular includes the tourism linked to Van Gogh. At the end of 2014 a contract of impressionism destinations, supported by the regions of Paris Region, Haute-Normandie and Basse-Normandie was also implemented. Furthermore, the year 2015 is marked by the 125th anniversary of the artist’s death around which communication actions are scheduled. In that context an image survey was carried out in order to better grasp his fame and perception by the tourists and to identify strategic development paths to contribute to his optimal touristic promotion.



The 10 key points

What is the level of interest for painting?

What image does Van Gogh have?

How should an offer around the character of Van Gogh be structured?

The 10 key points

Les 10 points clés
  1. Strong attraction to painting, and the impressionist era in particular.
  2. The desire to feel emotion when discovering pictorial work.
  3. Van Gogh, a famous artist who generates interest in American, Japanese and British tourists.
  4. A tortured painter whose talent remains fascinating for the visitors of the destination.
  5. A package based on Van Gogh: an attractive principle.
  6. “A la carte” products, flexible and affordable, well received by all the tourists.
  7. Must-see sites: Orsay museum and Auvers-sur-Oise.
  8. Additional activities to enjoy an experience: Seine cruises and gastronomic discovery.
  9. A specific need for information, in particular on locations linked to Van Gogh.
  10. Expected media by the tourists to discover the artist: websites, brochures and applications.

What is the level of interest for painting?



Strong attraction for the world of painting

We don’t just want to walk around. It is interesting to see the paintings and to introduce children to new painters

 German tourist

Almost three quarters (72%) of the visitors of the destination are interested in the world of painting. The most curious are the American visitors with 91% interested, followed by the British (89%) and the Japanese(86%). For the latter the proportion of very interested persons is larger with levels included between 35% and 50%. With levels below 70% the Swiss and French customers are least attracted (respectively 60% and 66%).

Appreciated impressionism

I love impressionism, it is a very rich period, there were many artists

Swiss tourist

Among the different artistic movements, Impressionism is the one that interests the visitors to the destination the most (72%), before realism (62%) and naturalism (57%). American (88%), British (87%) and Japanese (84%) customers are most interested in the movement. Inversely, Swiss (61%), German (64%) and Dutch (67%) say they are least interested. Finally, the French customers come slightly short of the average (69%).

A desire to feel emotion

I came to Paris in mid June, I saw an exhibition that interested me about Van Gogh and Artaud, the society’s suicide

French tourist

The majority of visitors (57%) of the destination wish, when discovering a pictorial work, to feel emotion. That is mainly the case for Germans (81%), Swiss (75%) and the Dutch (74%). Inversely, the Americans (55%) and the Japanese (53%) favour the fact of educating oneself and understanding the work of the artist. As for the French tourists they are average as 56% wish to feel emotion.

What image does Van Gogh have?


An artist who generates interest

With an average of 77%, the level of interest in Van Gogh for all the visitors to the destination is high. The most interested customers are the Americans with 91%, followed by the Japanese with 87% and the British with 81%. For the Americans and Japanese, the proportion of very interested persons is the highest (respectively 34% and 30%). However, the Swiss and Dutch visitors are more reserved (respectively 60% and 71%). Finally, three quarters (75%) of the French customers are interested in the character.

Strong attraction of the Americans and Japanese

The visitors of the destination are interested by various aspects of Van Gogh. His work (76%), his places of inspiration (75%) and his personality (70%) represent the three elements that interest tourists most. The work of Van Gogh particularly interests Americans (91%), the British (81%) and the Japanese, Belgians and Germans (75% each). More generally, the American customers are interested by all the themes linked to the artist. British tourists are more attracted by his personality (86%), his places of inspiration (83%) and the places where the artist has lived (81%).


Swiss and Dutch tourists are more reserved

The Swiss show less interest for all these themes (only 58% say they are interested by the places of inspiration for his paintings, best quoted theme) The Dutch customers also are more reserved about the artistic movements of his era (58%), the influences of Van Gogh (57%) and the places where he lived (56%). As for the French they are average, except for the personal life of Van Gogh, slightly short of average from the other themes with only 59% of persons interested.

Qualificatifs associés à Van Gogh

A tortured painter whose talent remains fascinating

Each visitor of the destination has part of Van Gogh’s history in mind but that knowledge remains most often general and superficial. Few tourists can trace his path, from the Netherlands to Southern France. For example, the Dutch period is rarely mentioned. Furthermore, various aspects of his personality are emphasised according to nationalities. « Tortured » (43%), « talented » (40%), « genius » (30%), « passionate » (29%) and « fascinating » (21%) are the characteristics most mentioned by the visitors of the destination. However, only 15% of the Dutch consider Van Gogh a genius, only 13% of German tourists define him as passionate and only 10% of the Japanese customers are fascinated by the character.

It is one of the best painters of the 19th century… One of the most famous ever.

Dutch tourist

I know his paintings better than the character.

French tourist

He was all alone in life, a misunderstood but brilliant person.

Japanese tourist

Masterpieces famous worldwide

Van Gogh’s works are appreciated by the visitors of the destination. Some of them are virtually unanimously listed such as “Sunflowers”, “Iris”, “Starry night” or the artist’s self-portraits. More than specific titles, the themes (landscapes, still-lives...) and the colours (vibrant, cheerful, orange, blue...) are mentioned. However, although Van Gogh is identified as an Impressionist, the movement he belonged to is not fully understood by the tourists, in particular due to his style of painting, often perceived as singular. Van Gogh’s artistic movement also remains blurred to the visitors. Although it seems perceivable by all, only well-informed persons identify various periods in his work.


How should an offer around the character of Van Gogh be structured?


A package based on Van Gogh: an attractive principle.

The concept of creating a tourism package around Van Gogh is favourably received by the tourists. That offer generates interest as it allows for a broader discovery of the destination, not only based on a cultural approach. Furthermore, the interviewed tourists feel they do not know this artist that well and still have things to discover.

Must-see sites

Despite Van Gogh’s fame the visitors to the destination link few sites to the artist. One quarter (25%) even do not make any link between the places and Van Gogh.

  • The Orsay museum (50%) is the best known place to discover part of Van Gogh’s work. Japanese (79%), American (63%) and British (56%) tourists are best informed on the possibility of discovering work by the artist in this museum, contrary to the Swiss and the Germans (34% each).
  • Auvers-sur-Oise (41%) is also a location linked to Van Gogh. The Japanese and French (43% each) are best informed. Auvers-sur-Oise simultaneously provides the possibility to discover landscapes that inspired Van Gogh, and the auberge Ravoux, the castle, the absinth museum and the artist’s grave.
  • Arles is also mentioned by 37% of visitors, as well as Saint-Remy-de-Provence by 36%. It is followed by Giverny and the Montmartre neighbourhood (31% each).
Locations linked to Van Gogh (in %)
Des lieux incontournables

Activities elected by the majority

A Van Gogh package, according to the tourists, must be integrated in a more general visit of the destination. It is the reason why they like the idea of a Seine cruise, which provides the opportunity of discovering Paris in a different way. The discovery of French gastronomy, listed in the intangible human heritage, through a gastronomic meal interests tourists by presenting one of the experiences of the destination. Finally, other activities such as a walk or a cycling trip, a visit to a cabaret or taking part in painting initiation workshops can also be considered.

Two types of packages are emerging

Depending on the profile of the visitors, two types of packages emerge: à la carte (59%) for French families and rather young tourists and “all inclusive” with pre-defined packages (41%) for international tourists who often are older.

Tickets can be used for 2, 3 or 4 days, which allows discounts but without constraints

French tourist

There could be partnerships with restaurants and hotels.

French tourist

I didn’t know there were so many things in France around Van Gogh. There is very little communication

French tourist

  • The a la carte offer is popular with tourists for its flexible and affordable aspect. It allows a customised stay by selecting the places to visit and adapting visits to taste. It promotes the opening of Van Gogh themes to a broader public. Tourists also imagine the integration of discounts in the proposed packages with low prices for the sites to be visited, restaurants and transport. Most tourists appreciate an a la carte package, in particular the Japanese (81%), the Swiss (70%) and the Dutch (68%). With 60%, the French customers also like it. Three à la carte offers emerge: Paris Region with the musée d’Orsay, Auvers-sur-Oise and Montmartre, an offer Paris-Provence, with, in addition to the sites above, the opportunity to travel to Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, then a Europe offer by combining Paris and Amsterdam.
  • The “all inclusive” offer is also considered. Structured around pre-defined packages, it has the advantage of including travel, accommodation, restaurants and high quality guided tours (the size of the group should not exceed 15 persons). The visitors thus feel safe and reassured. American (57%) and British (54%) customers are interested in that concept. The Paris Region packages get a positive reaction in particular those including the Orsay museum. Inversely the interest for the combined packs with sites located outside Paris Region is slightly lower.

Expected communication

Overall, the visitors of the destination communicate a lack of knowledge of places linked to Van Gogh. It is the reason why they suggest to promote existing sites and to implement various communication media. The majority favours the creation of a website (88%) virtually combining the museums and places where the discovery of Van Gogh is possible (in France and Europe), in particular Americans (93%) and the British (90%). The implementation of brochures (79%) indicating the must-see (locations, museums, visits…) is also listed, mainly by Americans (92%) and Japanese (91%). Finally, the creation of an application (65%) integrating museums and places linked to Van Gogh (in France and Europe) as well as guided commented walks also meets a demand. Some tourists even imagine the creation of events (poster competition, festive weekends in the towns concerned, painting initiation workshops).


study performed between November 2014 and January 2015 in two phases. The first consisted of a qualitative approach with 19 telephone interviews of 40 minutes with 12 French tourists and 7 international visitors (Germany, Japan, Belgium, United States, Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands). The approach was completed with an online survey of approx. 1000 tourists knowing at least the name of Napoleon I and having visited in the 12 past months or about to visit Paris Region in the 12 coming months (300 French visitors and 100 tourists originating from each of the countries above).

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