The original Van Gogh pens were higher in price (fitted with 14kt gold nibs), so they were always a bit out of my fountain pen budget. Last year, when we heard the collection was going to be re-released at a lower price point with steel nibs and a faceted barrel (à la the Michelangelo Collection), my wallet shrieked and ran for cover like a child avoiding a bath.
The new Van Gogh design was dubbed the Van Gogh "Impressionist" collection. The color palette for each pen is inspired directly by the Van Gogh painting it is named after. The pen I chose was the "Starry Night" model, which has the name of the painting engraved on the cap band. Deep tones of blue are overlaid with vibrant yellow, white and orange hues. Each pen's formulation of color varies so greatly that you really won't know what to expect, even by looking at a detailed example photo. There's also a varied amount of transparency, as the overlaid colors sometimes give way to opacity and you can see through to the inner metal sleeve of the connected front section.
While not being the smoothest or wettest steel nib, the Van Gogh does perform admirably and never had any flow or skipping issues. For the cost involved ($279 retail), fountain pen enthusiasts usually expect a higher quality nib in solid gold (usually 14kt). Granted, it does write well enough, but certainly not to the level that you would expect to get what you paid for in terms of nib quality. The pen fills by disposable ink cartridge (international size) or converter (included with pen).
The pen's cap has three neat features which are particularly useful. The cap utilizes magnetism to seal with the barrel of the pen. It securely attaches on the front end of the pen with little effort and stays on strong enough to withstand firm agitation and shaking. Although it does not magnetically attach to the back-end while posted, the cap does securely post well and is very comfortable to write with while doing so (posted length 6.125"). Another feature of the cap is the spring-loaded Visconti Clip. It is easy to remove and attach to your pocket, but once latched on, is very sturdy. Lastly, you can personalize your Visconti Van Gogh with your two initials atop the cap's crown using Visconti's trademarked "My Pen System." Two initials, like a ying-yang symbol, can be inserted atop the crown magnetically, and can be swapped out for the original Visconti "V" medallion or a selection of birthstones, zodiac symbols and the like.
- Writing Quality : Stainless steel nib works admirably, but not the smoothest or wettest stainless steel out there. Considering the price, there is something more to be desired here. (grade B-)
- Aesthetic Quality : The unique color choices and technique that Visconti uses to create each pen "canvas" achieve the marriage between the pen and its theme. The faceted body emphasize the colors even further. (grade A+)
- Utility : Spring Loaded Clip is strong, easy to attach / remove. Cap posts well and operates without feeling unbalanced. Magnetic sealing cap is convenient and secure. Cartridge / Converter is convenient, but does not have a large ink capacity a piston-filler would provide. (grade B+)
- Price : Available in fine, medium and broad nib sizes for $279.00 Retail. Check Goldspot for current price & promotions. For an everyday writing instrument with a steel nib, the Van Gogh is at the top end of that product range. While the artistic quality of the pen design is in a class of its own, the writing quality is not. (grade C+)
Final Grade : B+
As a student of the fine arts and a pen-lover, the Van Gogh is right up my alley. I can justify loving the aesthetics of the pen that it would be part of my everyday carry. My knowledge of what the price tag can get you in other brands (an Edison with an 18kt nib, a Sailor 1911 L w/ 21kt gold nib, for example) tells me that I'm not getting the best bang for my buck, but I'm willing to have a less-than-stellar nib for a absolutely sublime pen design.