Artist
Vincent van Gogh
Dutch post-Impressionist painter

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Vincent van Gogh
Dutch post-Impressionist painter

Birth Date

March 30, 1853

Death Date

July 29, 1890

Contributor

Vincent van Gogh’s first career choice was actually in missionary work. The angsty artist soon however, became disillusioned with organized religion.

Van Gogh felt that it did more to help the church than actually do anything to help the poor. We might be in agreement. The artist would know as a member of the poorer class himself. Though he painted over 800 paintings, he was only able to sell a hand full of them in his lifetime. He wrote: “I can't change the fact that my paintings don't sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.” The man was right as his paintings, should they ever come on the market, regularly sell for at least $100 million.

Local townspeople in Arles, France called Van Gogh "fou roux" or "red madman." Insensitive really, as van Gogh's mental state landed him in an insane asylum on several occasions, and led him to cut off part of his ear, wrap it in a piece of cloth, and give it to a prostitute for "safekeeping." Several theories have been proposed for van Gogh’s personality issues: schizophrenia, syphilis, porphyria, bipolar disorder, and temporal lobe epilepsy. A possible contributing factor was that van Gogh occasionally ate his paints, which had bases of copper, arsenic, lead, and mercury.

He died from a gunshot wound to the stomach when he was only 37. There is a debate about whether it was suicide or murder (the gun was never found), but either way, he never got to see the adulation his paintings eventually received and all the media his life inspired:

  • You can read more about the murder theory in Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s biography "Van Gogh: The Life."
  • He's featured in Irving Stone’s 1934 "Lust for Life" and subsequent 1956 movie adaptation featuring Kirk Douglas. 
  • Don McLean's 1972 mega-hit "Starry Starry Night" captures the tragedy of van Gogh's life perfectly.
  • In an episode of the British cult-classic "Doctor Who," van Gogh fought actual monsters rather than ones in his mind.
  • Google Doodle-d him for his 152 birthday! 

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh (Dutch: [ˈvɪnsɛnt ˈʋɪləm vɑŋ ˈɣɔx] (About this soundlisten); 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. However, he was not commercially successful and his suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion and spent time as a Protestant missionary in southern Belgium. He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881, having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother Theo supported him financially, and the two kept up a long correspondence by letter. His early works, mostly still lifes and depictions of peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he met members of the avant-garde, including Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in the south of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include series of olive trees, wheat fields and sunflowers.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor, when in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy. After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet. His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died from his injuries two days later.

Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime, and was considered a madman and a failure. He became famous after his suicide, and exists in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist "where discourses on madness and creativity converge". His reputation began to grow in the early 20th century as elements of his painting style came to be incorporated by the Fauves and German Expressionists. He attained widespread critical, commercial and popular success over the ensuing decades, and is remembered as an important but tragic painter, whose troubled personality typifies the romantic ideal of the tortured artist.


Check out the full Wikipedia article about Vincent van Gogh.