While we are no longer developing Digital Mysteries and Thinking Kit, we are leaving our website up for those of you interested in the ideas behind the Apps.

Vincent van Gogh

vincent van gogh app     Vincent van Gogh


       Subject:        Art, English
       Topic:           Great artists in history, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Group discussion and interaction
       Audience:     KS2
       Question:     Why did Vincent lose his ear?
       Author:         Anne de A’Echevarria



This mystery could be used at KS2 to contribute to the requirement to teach pupils about great artists in history. It uses the interesting story of Vincent van Gogh’s life, and the controversy surrounding how he came to lose an ear, to introduce students to his – and fellow artist Paul Gauguin’s – work.

The 18 slips include letters between Vincent and his brother, a diagnosis of Vincent’s health by Doctor Rey, a newspaper report and statements of many of the people involved. While these are central to the story itself, the mystery also brings in many of Vincent’s paintings which can be viewed very clearly in the largest slip size. There is also a self-portrait by Paul Gauguin included too.

It is hoped that the students will be engaged in the dramatic story behind the famous artist while at the same time be able to learn about his style and whether/how it was different to others.


The mystery could be used to support the development of group discussion and interaction, as well as encourage students in their development of generic thinking skills.


Students will learn about the different styles of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, be introduced to many of their paintings and develop an understanding of his life story. The task might serve as a spring board to further research comparing and contrasting the differing approaches and subject matters of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.


Relevant learning objectives may include:

  • To take turns in speaking
  • To relate their contributions to what has gone on before
- building on the ideas of others
  • To take different views into account
  • To extend their ideas in the light of discussion

Generic thinking skills

Learning objectives relating to the generic thinking skills that the mystery aims to develop might include:

  • To justify ideas with reasons
  • To form a well-structured explanation
  • *To speculate and draw inferences from information