Vincent van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, the Netherlands. Through his uncle, he got a position at the art dealers, Goupil and Co. in The Hague and worked with them until he was dismissed from the London office in 1873.
By 1877, van Gogh had begun religious studies, and from 1878 to 1880 he was an evangelist in the Borinage, a poor mining district in Belgium. During this time he decided to become an artist. He moved to Paris in 1886. Here he discovered the color and ideas which became the trademark of his later work. He lived with his brother Theo and met artists including Emile Bernard, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Signac.
He moved to Arles and was joined by Paul Gauguin for a while. This was a troubled relationship. A final argument led to the infamous episode in which Van Gogh mutilated his ear. He suffered mental break downs and became a voluntary patient at the St. Remy asylum. He continued to paint. He sold his first painting in 1890. Van Gogh shot himself on July 27, 1890, and died on July 29 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.
"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"
"Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together."
"I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."
"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."
"An artist needn't be a clergyman or a churchwarden, but he certainly must have a warm heart for his fellow men."
The man who cut off his ear!
Location:Van Gogh Museum, The Netherlands
This is one of Vincent's very last paintings. He lived in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small village north of Paris. He had moved there in 1890 after a year at the asylum in Saint-Remy.
His loyal and devoted brother Theo, who lived in Paris, wanted him nearby. As always, Vincent painted the landscape around him. His brushstrokes became more and more frantic and pronounced. There is a prevailing atmosphere of foreboding and dread in this intense painting.
Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York
After suffering a nervous break-down during which he cut off a part of his left ear, Vincent spent one year at the asylum in Saint-Remy de Provence. Although it was a very difficult and depressing time for him personally, creatively he reached new height.
Whenever he was allowed, he would venture into the country side and paint prolifically. His colours and forms took on an exquisite subtlety and refinement that has never ceased to delight the viewer.
Location:Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo
In 1888 Vincent moved to Arles, south of France, hoping to establish an artists' colony there. He was immediately influenced by the sunlight and landscape to experiment using more vivid colours of red and yellows in his paintings, which he increasingly used symbolically to represent his own moods.
The painter Paul Gauguin joined him in October 1888. They wanted to combine their creative ideas. However, this was not a success. Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor and in the depression that followed this incident; he cut off his own left earlobe.
Nevertheless over 180 wonderful paintings come from this turbulent period. Many of them, including this one, are Vincent's best-loved works.
Location:The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Starry Night is probably Vincent van Gogh's most famous and popular painting. It has been the subject of fiction, poetry and the song "Vincent" or "Starry, Starry Night" by Don McLean.
Vincent himself may not anticipate this popularity at all. He generally discussed his paintings in letters with his brother Theo at great length. However, Starry Night is only mentioned briefly twice.
The painting was created while Vincent was in the asylum at Saint-Remy and his behaviour was very erratic at the time. There has been speculation about the eleven stars in the painting. While it's true that Vincent didn't have the same religious fervour in 1889, when he painted the work, as he did in his earlier years, there is a possibility that the story of Joseph in the Old Testament may have had an influence on the composition of the work.
Location:Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum
Vincent lived in Nuenen, near Antwerp between 1883 and 1886. During this time he truly emerged as a great artist.
He observed the peasants in the fields, sketched and painted them. It was a great learning experience for him and helped to define his style. The Potato Eaters is often considered his first major painting.
Location:Van Gogh Museum, The Netherlands
In 1888 Vincent moved to Arles, south of France, hoping to establish and artists' colony there. He was immediately influence by the sunlight and landscape to experiment using more vivid colours of red and yellows in his paintings, which he increasingly used symbolically to represent his own moods.
This painting shows the house Vincent lived in during most of his time in Arles. It was known as the Yellow House.
Location:Vincent van Gogh Foundation, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Vincent first became interested in Japanese woodcuts in 1985. When he moved to Paris he started his own collection and was profoundly influenced. He incorporated much brighter colours into his work. This painting is a good example of van Gough's determination to explore all possibilities of creating image.
In 1886 Vincent moved to Paris to live with his devoted brother Theo. He was an art dealer and introduced his brother to painters such as Gauguin, Pissarro, Seurat, and Toulouse Lautrec. Van Gough had his own ideas on painting but adapted some of the Impressionist techniques and turned them into his own style.
His palette brightened and his colours became much more vibrant. One can see the brushstroke, that later became so distinctive, for the first time. He painted flowers, the streets of Paris and portraits of his friends.
Learning art through great artists and their paintings is fun and exciting. Our friend and resident artist Stefan Mager has kindly given this introduction to the art world.