Died: July 29, 1890
Famous For: Painting, drawing, ushering in Post-Impressionistic art, cutting off part of his left ear.
Key Accomplishments: Furthered aesthetic development of Impressionism into Post-Impressionism, posthumously recognized as one of the world's greatest artists.
Significant Quote: "I tell you, if one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of going wrong, one must not be afraid of making mistakes now and then. Many people think that they will become good just by doing no harm— but that's a lie, and you yourself used to call it that. That way lies stagnation, mediocrity." (Letter to Theo van Gogh, from Nuenen)
Fun Quote: "Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it."
See Also Links:
1. Van Gogh's Letters
3. The Vincent van Gogh Gallery
Vincent Willem van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, in Zundert, a small village in the Netherlands, to Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh. He had two younger brothers, Theodorus, who became particularly important in his life, and Cor, as well as three sisters, named Elizabeth, Anna and Wil. His father was a minister of the Dutch Reform Church.
After an unsuccessful run as an art dealer in Great Britain, Vincent found himself turned towards religion, and pursued a life as a missionary for several years. Eventually, giving into pressure from his family, he joined his parents in Etten in the Netherlands. He was quickly overcome by wanderlust, however, and soon left again to pursue his art, scrapping by a meager existence as he traveled from place to place. During this time he began to develop the ill health that would plague him for the rest of his life.
Paris and After
In 1886 Vincent joined his brother Theo in Paris, with whom he had maintained a steady correspondence throughout his earlier life. It was here that he seriously committed himself to art, and studied at the studio of Fernand Cormon, and encountered Impressionistic artists such as Gaugin, Monet, and Pissarro. Vincent's personally style underwent a drastic change at this time, turning away from the darker palette of his earlier work such as The Potato Eaters. Instead, he began to employ the short, thick brushstrokes, and bright, vivid colors for which he is most well known today. It was only then, in the last four years of his life, that he created the majority of his body of work, over 200 paintings.
Eventually, he left Paris for Arles, where he hoped to found an art school. He was eventually joined by Gaugin, but the two increasingly quareled. During an especially tense moment, Vincent cut off a portion of his left ear with a razor blade. Suffering increasingly ill mental and physical health, he was confined to an asylum in Saint-Remy for treatment, where he was visited by his brother Theo. There, some of his work became characterized by bold whorls and waves, including one of his most famous paintings, The Starry Night.
In May of 1890, Vincent left Saint-Remy and moved to Auvers-sur-Oise. There he was cared for by one Dr. Gachet, who became the subject of another of van Gogh's most revered pieces, Portrait of Dr. Gachet. His depression worsened, and on July 27, 1890, he shot himself in the chest. He died two days later, at the age of 37. His last words, as reported by his brother Theo, who stayed by his deathbed, were "La tristesse durera toujours" (French for "The sadness will last forever"). During his brief career, Vincent had only sold one painting, The Red Vineyard, and traded one other as a substitute for rent payment.
Vincent van Gogh, despite his lack of success during his own lifetime, had gone on to be one of the most influential painters of all time. While partially fuelled by the publishing of his correspondence with Theo, which created his image of a tormented artists dedicated to his passion, the vibrancy and texture of his work influenced the aesthetic of many painters after him. His paintings are incredibly popular among collectors; one of the two versions of Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold in 1990 $82.5 million, at the time the highest price ever for a single painting. Today, van Gogh and his work represents one of the most recognized and influential icons of art.