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Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Willem Gogh was a Dutch painter who after his death became one of the most important and influential figures of art history. He did a total of around 2100 artworks in a decade, out of which 800 were oil paintings, and he did most of his work in the last two years of his life. His work revolves around landscapes, portraits, and self-portraits. Its features were that it used to be bold, dramatic, impulsive, and expressive which acted as a foundation for modern art. His works were not commercially hit, he was suffering from poverty and severe depression. He took his life at the age of 37.

Van Gogh was born into an upper-middle-class family. He was a serious child, he was quiet and thoughtful even at a small age. He started drawing at an early age. He worked as an art dealer when he was young. He used to travel a lot, and he became depressed when he got transferred to London. His health deteriorated and he drifted to solitude before he started painting. In 1881 he returned to his parents, his brother Theo supported him financially and both were connected through the long correspondence of letters.

His early works include paintings of still life and depiction of peasant laborers, characterized by vivid colors which could be distinguished from his later work. He met the members of Avant-grade when he moved to Paris. As he improved his work, he opted for a new approach to still life and landscape. In 1888 during his stay in Arles, France, as Van Gogh improved his work his paintings grew brighter. It was during this period that he started including Olive trees, wheat fields, and sunflowers in his paintings.

Van Gogh was a man with problems, he suffered from psychotic episodes and delusion. He often used to worry about his mental stability but he neglected his physical health. His diet was not proper at all and he had drinking problems. Once he fought with a friend and cut his own left ear with a razor blade. After these events, he spent time in Saint-Remy. After getting discharged he moved to Auberge Ravoux, and a homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet started treating him.

Depression never left him. It is believed that he succumbed to his depression and shot himself with a revolver and died after two days due to his injuries. He was considered to be a madman and a failure because his paintings didn't do commercially well. Although some collectors recognized his work. But his name came into the limelight after his death only.

He was referred to as a misunderstood genius. In the early 20th century, Fauves and German Expressionists started corporating his style in their works through which he became famous. And in the coming decade, his paintings were commercially hit. He is remembered as a tragic painter and tortured artist. Today his works are among the world's most expensive paintings to have ever sold. He is honored with a museum in his name. It is situated in Amsterdam.


The correspondence letters between Van Gogh and his brother, through which the world got to know about Van Gogh. Vincent's thoughts and theories of art are there in hundreds of letters, Vincent and his brother exchanged in 1872 and 1890. His brother worked as an art dealer and provided his brother with emotional and financial support. His brother kept his letter to him, and Vincent kept a few received letters. After both of them died, Theo's wife posted a few of their letters. Few were printed in 1906 and 1913 and the majority were printed in 1914. His letters are considered to be his short autobiography. His letters are eloquent and expressive.

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent sent around 600 letters to his brother and Theo sent around 40 letters to Vincent. He also sent letters to his sister Will, He also exchanged letters with painter Anthon van Rappard. Few of his letters are illustrated with sketches. Historians have set his letters in chronological order. During his stay in Paris, he lived with his brother so there's a gap in the record, as there was no need for correspondence.

Jules Breton who was commercially successful was mentioned frequently in his letters. In one letter Vincent talks about, how he saw Breton and he also told his brother that he would send one of the books by Breton only if it'd be returned. And in a letter of 1884 to Rappard about how one of the poems by Breton inspired his painting.

Early Years

Vincent Willem Van Gogh was born on 30th March, in Groot Zendert, it was a catholic province of the Netherlands. His father's name was Theodoros Van Gogh and his mother's name was Anne Carniola Carbentus. Vincent was the oldest surviving son. Vincent Van Gogh was named after his grandfather. His grandfather was an art dealer. He had six sons, and three of them became art dealers. Vincent's mom came from a rich family and his father was a son of a minister. His brother Theo was born on 1 May 1857.

Vincent Van Gogh

His mother used to teach him at home. Later he was sent to a boarding school in Zevenbergen. And for middle school, he was sent to Tilburg, where he felt abandoned and deeply unhappy.

Style and Works

Artistic Development: He started painting with watercolors when he was a child. He began painting at an elementary level. His work did not live up to expectations. In the initial days, he tried shifting lights using variable shutters and different drawing materials, and whatever he tried he only gained criticism. But in later years they were called early masterpieces.

Vincent Van Gogh

In August 1882, he started working on en Plein air with money that Theo gave him. He destroyed a few of his paintings which had multi-figure compositions because his brother said it lack liveliness.

Major Series

Improvement in his style is linked to different places he's lived across Europe. He evolved at a slow pace and he was aware of his painterly limitations.

  • Portraits: He drew portraits to earn money. Portraits moved him deeply and gave him a sense of infinity. But he never painted portraits of people that were close to him. Portraits show a shift from fluid, restrained brushstrokes to a frenetic style. He painted La Berceuse in 1888 which he thought was as good as his sunflowers.
    Vincent Van Gogh
  • Self Portraits: Vincent created more than 43 self-portraits in the years 1885 to 1889. He used to make self-portraits when there was a lack of models or during introspective periods. His self-portraits reflected a high degree of self-introspection. His paintings marked important periods in his life. We can learn a lot about his outer appearance through his self-portraits. He can also with seen with bandages in paintings, they were painted after mutilating his ear.
  • Flowers: His landscape paintings included flowers like sunflowers, lilacs, and roses. His paintings reflect his interest in Japanese ukiyo-e and also in the language of color. He painted a series of two dying sunflowers. The first one was painted in 1887, in this painting flowers are lying on the ground. His works in 1888 reflect a rare period of optimism in Van Gogh's life. He painted sunflowers before Gauguin's visit. It impressed Gauguin and he acquired two of the Paris versions.
  • Cypresses and Olives: He was fascinated by Cypress trees in Arles and he painted around 15 paintings of these trees. In one of his letters to Theo he writes "Cypresses still preoccupy me, I should like to do something with them like my canvases of sunflowers". Olive trees as subjects of painting compelled him. In 1889, he painted Olive trees with the Alpilles in the background.
  • Orchards: He painted the Flowering Orchards after his arrival in Arles in 1888. These paintings are joyous and optimistic. They are delicate, sensitive, and unpopulated. Van Gogh mastered the use of light during this period. He painted trees and illustrated them as a source of light.
  • Wheat Fields: During his stay in Arles, he used to visit landscapes to refresh his mind. He made several paintings out of them. Many of his late paintings are sad and dull, it shows how he wanted to get back to lucid mental health. On 10 July he wrote to Theo about the "vast fields of wheat under troubled skies" which reflects the artist's state of mind. A dark Palette and heavy brushstrokes convey a sense of threat or danger.
    Vincent Van Gogh


Vincent Van Gogh

It is believed that on 27th July 1890 at the age of 37 Van Gogh killed himself by shooting himself in the chest with a 7mm Lefaucheux pinfire revolver, though there were no witnesses. He died 30 hours after the incident. During that time he was shooting in wheat fields, it is believed that he shot himself in the wheat fields or a local barn. The bullet didn't do much damage to his internal organs because it was deflected by a rib and stopped by the spine. He was able to walk back to Auberge Ravoux, where two doctors operated on him. There was no surgeon, the bullet could not be removed. Doctors did their best and then left him in a room smoking a pipe. Theo ran to his brother's side. He died in the early hours of 29 July. Theo said that Vincent's last words were "The sadness will last forever".

Vincent Van Gogh was buried in municipal cemetery of Auvers-sur-oise on July 30 1890. Following his brother's death Theo remained ill and it started declining even more. He died on 25th January 1891. He was initially buried in Utrecht. In 1914 Johanna van Gogh-bonger moved Theo's body from Utrecht to alongside Vincent's.

Cause of death of Vincent, his illness and its effect on his work has been a topic of debate. In 1947 Perry suggested that it was bipolar disorder, psychiatrists Hemphill and Blumer supported that. The gun which Van Gogh had was rediscovered in 1965 and was auctioned on June 19, 2019. It is called most famous weapon in the art history.

Vincent Van Gogh Museum

Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh's estate was given to his nephew after the death of his mother in 1925. The museum was opened in Museumplein in Amsterdam in 1973. It has become second most famous museum in Netherlands. It receives more than 1.5 million visitors every year. In 2019, it had recorded visits from 1.9 million visitors.

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