Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh (March 30, 1853 in Zundert July 29, 1890
in Auvers-sur-Oise) was a Dutch draughtsman and painter, classified as
a Post-Impressionist. His paintings and drawings include some of the world's
best known, most popular and most expensive pieces. He suffered from recurrent
bouts of mental illness about which there are many competing theories
and during one such episode, famously cut off a part of his left
Van Gogh spent his early life working for a firm of art dealers, and
after a brief spell as a teacher, became a missionary worker in a very
poor mining region. He did not embark upon a career as an artist until
1880, at the age of 27. Initially he worked in sombre colours, until an
encounter in Paris with Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism accelerated
his artistic development. He produced all of his more than 2,000 works,
including around 900 paintings and 1100 drawings or sketches, during the
last ten years of his life. Most of his best-known works were produced
in the final two years of his life, and in the two months before his death
he painted 90 pictures.
The central figure in Vincent van Gogh's life was his brother Theo, an
art dealer with the firm of Goupil & Cie, who continually and selflessly
provided financial support. Their lifelong friendship is documented in
numerous letters they exchanged from August 1872 onwards, which were published
in 1914, by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Theo's widow, who generously supported
most of the early Van Gogh exhibitions with loans from the artist's estate.
Van Gogh has been acknowledged as a pioneer of what came to be known
as Expressionism and has had an enormous influence on 20th century art,
especially on the Fauves and German Expressionists, with a line that continues
through to the Abstract Expressionism of Willem de Kooning and the British
painter Francis Bacon.
For a timeline, see Vincent van Gogh chronology.
Early life (1853 1869)
Vincent Willem van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert, a village close to
Breda in the Province of North Brabant in the southern Netherlands. Vincent
was the son of Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, a minister
of the Dutch Reformed Church. He was given the same name as his grandfatherand
a first brother stillborn exactly one year before. It has been suggested
that being given the same name as his dead elder brother might have had
a deep psychological impact on the young Vincent, and that elements of
his art, such as the portrayal of pairs of male figures, can be traced
back to this. The practice of reusing a name in this way was not uncommon.
The name "Vincent" was often used in the Van Gogh family: the
baby's grandfather was called Vincent van Gogh (1789-1874); he had received
his degree of theology at the University of Leiden in 1811. Grandfather
Vincent had six sons, three of whom became art dealers, including another
Vincent, referred to in Van Gogh's letters as "Uncle Cent."
Grandfather Vincent had perhaps been named after his own father's uncle,
the successful sculptor Vincent van Gogh (1729-1802). Art and religion
were the two occupations to which the Van Gogh family gravitated.
Four years after Van Gogh was born his brother Theodorus (Theo) was born
on May 1, 1857. There was also another brother named Cor and three sisters,
Elisabeth, Anna and Wil. As a child, Vincent was serious, silent and thoughtful.
In 1860 he attended the Zundert village school, where the only teacher
was Catholic and there were around 200 pupils. From 1861 he and his sister
Anna were taught at home by a governess, until October 1, 1864, when he
went away to the elementary boarding school of Jan Provily in Zevenbergen,
the Netherlands, about 20 miles away. He was distressed to leave his family
home, and recalled this even in adulthood. On September 15, 1866, he went
to the new middle school, Willem II College in Tilburg, the Netherlands.
Constantijn C. Huysmans, who had achieved a certain success himself in
Paris, taught Van Gogh to draw at the school and advocated a systematic
approach to the subject. In March 1868 Van Gogh abruptly left school and
returned home. His comment on his early years was: "My youth was
gloomy and cold and barren...."
Art dealer and preacher (1869 1878)
In July 1869, at the age of 15, he obtained a position with the art dealer,
Goupil & Cie in The Hague, through his Uncle Vincent ("Cent"),
who had built up a good business which became a branch of the firm. After
his training, Goupil transferred him to London in June 1873, where he
lodged in Stockwell. This was a happy time for Vincent: he was successful
at work, and was already, at the age of 20, earning more than his father.
He fell in love with his landlady's daughter, Eugénie Loyer, but
when he finally confessed his feeling to her, she rejected him, saying
that she was already secretly engaged to a previous lodger. Vincent became
increasingly isolated and fervent about religion. His father and uncle
sent him to Paris, where he became resentful at how art was treated as
a commodity, and he manifested this to the customers. On April 1, 1876,
it was agreed that his employment should be terminated.
His religious emotion grew to the point where he felt he had found his
true vocation in life, and he returned to England to do unpaid work, first
as a supply teacher in a small boarding school overlooking the harbour
in Ramsgate; he made some sketches of the view. The proprietor of the
school relocated to Isleworth, Middlesex. Vincent decided to walk to the
new location. This new position did not work out, and Vincent became a
nearby Methodist minister's assistant in wanting to "preach the gospel
At Christmas that year he returned home, and then worked in a bookshop
in Dordrecht for six months, but he was not happy in this new position
and spent most of his time in the back of the shop either doodling, or
translating passages from the Bible into English, French, and German.
His roommate from this time, a young teacher called Görlitz, later
recalled that Vincent ate frugally, preferring to eat no meat. In an effort
to support his wish to become a pastor, his family sent him to Amsterdam
in May 1877 where he lived with his uncle Jan van Gogh, a rear admiral
in the navy. Vincent prepared for university, studying for the theology
entrance exam with his uncle Johannes Stricker, a respected theologian
who published the first "Life of Jesus" available in the Netherlands.
Vincent failed at his studies and had to abandon them. He left uncle Jan's
house in July 1878. He then studied, but failed, a three-month course
at the Protestant missionary school (Vlaamsche Opleidingsschool) in Laeken,
Borinage and Brussels (1879 1880)
In January 1879 Van Gogh got a temporary post as a missionary in the
village of Petit Wasmes in the coal-mining district of Borinage in Belgium,
bringing his father's profession to some of the most wretched and hopeless
people in Europe. Taking Christianity to what he saw as its logical conclusion,
Vincent opted to live like those he preached to, sharing their hardships
to the extent of sleeping on straw in a small hut at the back of the baker's
house where he was billeted; the baker's wife used to hear Vincent sobbing
all night in the little hut. His choice of squalid living conditions did
not endear him to the appalled church authorities, who dismissed him for
"undermining the dignity of the priesthood." After this he walked
to Brussels,returned briefly to the Borinage, to the village of Cuesmes,
but acquiesced to pressure from his parents to come "home" to
Etten. He stayed there until around March the following year, to the increasing
concern and frustration of his parents. There was considerable conflict
between Vincent and his father, and his father made enquiries about having
his son committed to a lunatic asylum at Geel. Vincent fled back to Cuesmes
where he lodged with a miner named Charles Decrucq, with whom he stayed
until October. He became increasingly interested in the everyday people
and scenes around him, which he recorded in drawings.
In 1880, Vincent followed the suggestion of his brother Theo and took
up art in earnest. In autumn 1880, he went to Brussels, intending to follow
Theo's recommendation to study with the prominent Dutch artist Willem
Roelofs, who persuaded Van Gogh (despite his aversion to formal schools
of art) to attend the Royal Academy of Art. There he not only studied
anatomy, but the standard rules of modelling and perspective, all of which,
he said, "you have to know just to be able to draw the least thing."
In April 1881, Van Gogh went to live in the countryside with his parents
in Etten and continued drawing, using neighbours as subjects. Through
the summer he spent much time walking and talking with his recently widowed
cousin, Kee Vos-Stricker, the daughter of his mother's older sister and
Johannes Stricker. Stricker had earlier tutored Vincent in biblical criticism
in his attempt to gain entrance to a university to study theology, and
had shown real warmth towards his nephew. Kee was seven years older than
Vincent, and had an eight-year-old son. Vincent proposed marriage, but
she flatly refused with the words: "No, never, never" (niet,
nooit, nimmer). At the end of November he wrote a strong letter to Uncle
Stricker, and then, very soon after, hurried to Amsterdam where he talked
with Stricker again on several occasions, but Kee refused to see him at
all. Her parents told him "Your persistence is disgusting".
In desperation he held his left hand in the flame of a lamp, saying, "Let
me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame." He did
not clearly recall what happened next, but assumed that his uncle blew
out the flame. Her father, "Uncle Stricker," as Vincent refers
to him in letters to Theo, made it clear that there was no question of
Vincent and Kee marrying, given Vincent's inability to support himself
financially. What he saw as the hypocrisy of his uncle and former tutor
affected Vincent deeply. At Christmas he quarrelled violently with his
father, even refusing a gift of money, and immediately left for The Hague.
Drenthe and The Hague (1881 1883)
In January 1882 he settled in The Hague, where he called on his cousin-in-law,
the painter Anton Mauve, who encouraged him towards painting. He soon
fell out with Mauve, however, perhaps over the issue of drawing from plaster
casts; but Mauve appeared to go suddenly cold towards Vincent, not returning
a couple of his letters. Vincent guessed that Mauve had learned of his
new domestic relationship with the alcoholic prostitute, Clasina Maria
Hoornik (born February 1850, The Hague; she was known as Sien) and her
young daughter. Van Gogh had met Sien towards the end of January. Sien
had a five year-old daughter, and was pregnant. She had already had two
other children who had died, although Vincent was unaware of this. On
2 July, Sien gave birth to a baby boy, Willem. When Vincent's father discovered
the details of this relationship, considerable pressure was put on Vincent
to abandon Sien and her children. Vincent was at first defiant in the
face of his family's opposition.
His uncle Cornelis, an art dealer, commissioned 20 ink drawings of the
city from him; they were completed by the end of May. In June Vincent
spent 3 weeks in hospital suffering gonorrhoea. In the summer, he began
to paint in oil.
In autumn 1883, after a year with Sien, he abandoned her and the two
children. Vincent had thought of moving the family away from the city,
but in the end he made the break. It is possible that lack of money had
pushed Sien back to prostitution; the home had become a less happy one,
and Vincent may have felt family life was irreconcilable with his artistic
development. When Vincent left, Sien gave her daughter to her mother,
and baby Willem to her brother, and moved to Delft and then Antwerp. Willem
remembered being taken to visit his mother in Rotterdam at around the
age of 12, where his uncle tried to persuade Sien to marry in order to
legitimize the child. Willem remembered his mother saying: "But I
know who the father is. He was an artist I lived with nearly 20 years
ago in The Hague. His name was Van Gogh." She then turned to Willem
and said "You are called after him." Willem believed himself
to be Van Gogh's son, but the timing of the birth makes this unlikely.
In 1904 Sien drowned herself in the river Scheldt.
Van Gogh moved to the Dutch province of Drenthe in the north of the Netherlands,
and in December, driven by loneliness, to stay with his parents who were
by then living in Nuenen, North Brabant, also in the Netherlands.
Nuenen (1883 1885)
In Nuenen, he devoted himself to drawing, paying boys to bring him birds'
nests and rapidly sketching the weavers in their cottages. In autumn 1884,
a neighbour's daughter, Margot Begemann, ten years older than Vincent,
accompanied him constantly on his painting forays and fell in love, which
he reciprocated (though less enthusiastically). They agreed to marry,
but were opposed by both families. Margot tried to kill herself with strychnine
and Vincent rushed her to the hospital.
On March 26, 1885, Van Gogh's father died of a stroke. Van Gogh grieved
deeply. For the first time there was interest from Paris in some of his
work. In spring he painted what is now considered his first major work,
The Potato Eaters (Dutch De Aardappeleters). In August his work was exhibited
for the first time, in the windows of a paint dealer, Leurs, in The Hague.
In September he was accused of making one of his young peasant sitters
pregnant, and the Catholic village priest forbade villagers from modelling
During his time in Nuenen Van Gogh's palette was of sombre earth tones,
particularly dark brown, and he showed no sign of developing the vivid
coloration that distinguishes his later, best known work. (When Vincent
complained that Theo was not making enough effort to sell his paintings
in Paris, Theo replied that they were too dark and not in line with the
current style of bright Impressionist paintings.) During his two-year
stay in Nuenen, he completed numerous drawings and watercolours, and nearly
200 oil paintings.
Antwerp (1885 1886)
In November 1885 he moved to Antwerp and rented a little room above a
paint dealer's shop in the Rue des Images. He had little money and ate
poorly, preferring to spend what money his brother Theo sent to him on
painting materials and models. Bread, coffee, and tobacco were his staple
intake. In February 1886 he wrote to Theo saying that he could only remember
eating six hot meals since May of the previous year. His teeth became
loose and caused him much pain. While in Antwerp he applied himself to
the study of color theory and spent time looking at work in museums, particularly
the work of Peter Paul Rubens, gaining encouragement to broaden his palette
to carmine, cobalt and emerald green. He also bought some Japanese Ukiyo-e
woodcuts in the docklands, which he imitated and incorporated into the
background of some of his paintings. It was while he was living in Antwerp
that Vincent began to drink absinthe heavily. He was treated by Dr Cavenaile
whose surgery was near the docklands, possibly for syphilis; the treatment
of alum irrigations and sitz baths was jotted down by Vincent in one of
In January 1886 he matriculated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp,
studying painting and drawing. Despite disagreements over his rejection
of academic teaching, he nevertheless took the higher-level admission
exams. For most of February he was ill, run down by overwork and a poor
diet (and excessive smoking).
Paris (1886 1888)
In March 1886 he moved to Paris to study at Cormon's studio, and in May
1886 his mother and sister Wil moved to Breda. The brothers first shared
Theo's apartment Rue Laval on Montmartre. In June they took a larger flat
at 54 Rue Lepic, further uphill. As there was no longer the need to communicate
by letters, less is known about Van Gogh's time in Paris than earlier
or later periods of his life.
For some months Vincent worked at Cormon's studio where he frequented
the circle of the British-Australian artist John Peter Russell, and met
fellow students like Émile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
who used to meet at the paint store run by Julien "Père"
Tanguy, which was at that time the only place to view works by Paul Cézanne.
It was not difficult to see and study Impressionist works in Paris at
this time. In 1886, for example, two large vanguard exhibitions were staged,
the 8th and final exhibition of the Impressionists and an exhibition of
the Artistes Indépendants. In both exhibitions Neo-Impressionism
manifested for the first time, works of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac
were the talk of the town. Though Theo, too, kept a stock of Impressionist
paintings in his gallery on Boulevard Montmarte, by artists including
Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, Vincent
evidently had problems acknowledging these recent ways to see and paint.
Conflicts arose, and at the turn of 1886 to 1887 Theo found shared life
with Vincent "almost unbearable," but in spring 1887 they made
peace. Then Vincent set out for a campaign in Asnières, where he
became personally acquainted with Paul Signac. Vincent and his friend
Emile Bernard, who lived with parents in Asnières, adopted elements
of the "pointillé" (pointillism) style, where many small
dots are applied to the canvas, resulting in an optical blend of hues,
when seen from a distance. The theory behind this also stresses the value
of complementary colours in proximityfor example, blue and orangeas
such pairings enhance the brilliance of each colour by a physical effect
on the receptors in the eye.
In November 1887, Theo and Vincent met and befriended Paul Gauguin, who
had just arrived in Paris. Towards the end of the year, Vincent arranged
an exhibition of paintings by himself, Bernard, Anquetin and (probably)
Toulouse-Lautrec in the Restaurant du Chalet, on Montmartre. There, Bernard
and Anquetin sold their first painting, and Vincent exchanged work with
Gauguin, who soon departed to Pont-Aven. But the discussions on art, artists
and their social situation started during this exhibition continued, and
expanded to visitors of the show like Pissarro and his son, Signac and
Seurat. Finally in February 1888, when Vincent felt worn out from life
in Paris, he left the city, having painted over 200 paintings during his
two years there. Only hours before his departure, accompanied by Theo,
he paid his first and only visit to Seurat in his atelier.
Arles (February 1888 May 1889)
Van Gogh arrived on 21 February, 1888, at the railroad station in Arles,
crossed Place Lamartine, entered the city through the Porte de la Cavalerie,
and took quarters a few steps further, at the Hôtel-Restaurant Carrel,
30 Rue Cavalerie. He had ideas of founding a Utopian art colony. His companion
for two months was the Danish artist, Christian Mourier-Petersen. In March,
he painted local landscapes, using a gridded "perspective frame."
Three of his pictures were shown at the annual exhibition of the Société
des Artistes Indépendants. In April he was visited by the American
painter, Dodge MacKnight, who was resident in Fontvieille nearby.
On May 1, he signed a lease for 15 francs a month to rent the four rooms
in the right hand side of the "Yellow House" (so called because
its outside walls were yellow) at No. 2 Place Lamartine. The house was
unfurnished and had been uninhabited for some time so he was not able
to move in straight away. He had been staying at the Hôtel Restaurant
Carrel in the Rue de la Cavalerie, just inside the medieval gate to the
city, with the old Roman Arena in view. The rate charged by the hotel
was 5 francs a week, which Van Gogh regarded as excessive. He disputed
the price, and took the case to the local arbitrator who awarded him a
twelve franc reduction on his total bill (the weekly rate being reduced
from five francs to four). On May 7 he moved out of the Hôtel Carrel,
and moved into the Café de la Gare. He became friends with the
proprietors, Joseph and Marie Ginoux. Although the Yellow House had to
be furnished before he could fully move in, Van Gogh was able to use it
as a studio. His major project at this time was a series of paintings
intended to form the décoration for the Yellow House.
In June he visited Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. He gave drawing lessons
to a Zouave second lieutenant, Paul-Eugène Milliet, who also became
a companion. MacKnight introduced him to Eugène Boch, a Belgian
painter, who stayed at times in Fontvieille (they exchanged visits in
July). Gauguin agreed to join him in Arles. In August he painted sunflowers;
Boch visited again.
On September 8, upon advice from his friend the station's postal supervisor
Joseph Roulin, he bought two beds, and he finally spent the first night
in the still sparsely furnished Yellow House on September 17.
On 23 October Gauguin eventually arrived in Arles, after repeated requests
from Van Gogh. During November they painted together. Uncharacteristically,
Van Gogh painted some pictures from memory, deferring to Gauguin's ideas
in this. Their first joint outdoor painting exercise was conducted at
the picturesque Alyscamps. It was in November that Van Gogh painted The
In December the two artists visited Montpellier and viewed works by Courbet
and Delacroix in the Museé Fabre. However, their relationship was
deteriorating badly. They quarrelled fiercely about art. Van Gogh felt
an increasing fear that Gauguin was going to desert him, and what he described
as a situation of "excessive tension" reached a crisis point
on December 23, 1888, when Van Gogh stalked Gauguin with a razor and then
cut off the lower part of his own left ear, which he wrapped in newspaper
and gave to a prostitute named Rachel in the local brothel, asking her
to "keep this object carefully." Gauguin left Arles and did
not see Van Gogh again. Van Gogh was hospitalised and in a critical state
for a few days. He was immediately visited by Theo (whom Gauguin had notified),
as well as Madame Ginoux and frequently by Roulin.
In January 1889 Van Gogh returned to the "Yellow House", but
spent the following month between hospital and home, suffering from hallucinations
and paranoia that he was being poisoned. In March the police closed his
house, after a petition by thirty townspeople, who called him fou roux
("the redheaded madman"). Signac visited him in hospital and
Van Gogh was allowed home in his company. In April he moved into rooms
owned by Dr. Rey, after floods damaged paintings in his own home. On April
17, Theo married Johanna Bonger in Amsterdam.
Saint-Rémy (May 1889 May 1890)
On May 8, 1889, Van Gogh, accompanied by a carer, the Reverend Salles,
was admitted to the mental hospital of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in a former
monastery in Saint Rémy de Provence, a little less than 20 miles
from Arles. The monastery was a mile and a half out of the town and was
in an area of cornfields, vineyards, and olive trees. The hospital was
run by a former naval doctor, Dr. Théophile Peyron, who had no
specialist qualifications. Theo van Gogh arranged for his brother to have
two small rooms, one for use as a studio, although in reality they were
simply adjoining cells with barred windows. During his stay there, the
clinic and its garden became his main subject. At this time some of his
work was characterised by swirls, as in one of his best-known paintings,
The Starry Night. He took some short supervised walks, which gave rise
to images of cypresses and olive trees, but because of the shortage of
subject matter due to his limited access to the outside world, he painted
interpretations of Millet's paintings, as well as his own earlier work.
In September 1889 he painted two new versions of the Bedroom in Arles,
and in February 1890 he painted four portraits of L'Arlésienne
(Madame Ginoux), based directly on a charcoal sketch Gauguin had produced
when Madame Ginoux had sat for both artists at the beginning of November
In January 1890, his work was praised by Albert Aurier in the Mercure
de France, and he was called a genius. In February, invited by Les XX,
a society of avant-garde painters in Brussels, he participated in their
annual exhibition. When, at the opening dinner, Henry de Groux, a member
of Les XX, insulted Van Gogh's works, Toulouse-Lautrec demanded satisfaction,
and Signac declared, he would continue to fight for Van Gogh's honour,
if Lautrec should be surrendered. Later, when Van Gogh's exhibit was on
display with the Artistes Indépendants in Paris, Monet said that
his work was the best in the show.
Auvers-sur-Oise (May July 1890)
In May 1890, Vincent left the clinic and went to the physician Dr. Paul
Gachet, in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, where he was closer to his brother
Theo. Dr. Gachet had been recommended to him by Pissarro, as he had previously
treated several artists and was an amateur artist himself. Van Gogh's
first impression was that Gachet was "sicker than I am, I think,
or shall we say just as much." Later Van Gogh did two portraits of
Gachet in oils, as well as a thirdhis only etching, and in all three
emphasis is on Gachet's melancholic disposition.
In his last weeks at Saint-Rémy Van Gogh's thoughts had been returning
to his "memories of the North", and several of the approximately
70 oils he painted during his 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oisesuch as
The Church at Auversare reminiscent of northern scenes.
Wheat Field with Crowsan example of the unusual double square canvas-size
he used in the last weeks of his lifewith its turbulent intensity
is often, but mistakenly, thought to be Van Gogh's last work (Jan Hulsker
lists seven paintings after it). Daubigny's Garden is a more likely candidate.
There are also seemingly unfinished paintings, such as Thatched Cottages
by a Hill.
Van Gogh's depression deepened, and on July 27, 1890, at the age of 37,
he walked into the fields and shot himself in the chest with a revolver.
Without realizing that he was fatally wounded, he returned to the Ravoux
Inn, where he died in his bed two days later. Theo hastened to be at his
side and reported his last words as "La tristesse durera toujours"
(French for "(the) sadness will last forever"). Vincent was
buried at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise.
Theo had contracted syphilis (though this was not admitted by the family
for many years) and, not long after Vincent's death, was himself admitted
to hospital. He was not able to come to terms with the grief of his brother's
absence, and died six months later on 25 January at Utrecht. In 1914 Theo's
body was exhumed and re-buried beside Vincent.
Main article: Vincent van Gogh's medical condition
Van Gogh cut off the ear lobe on one of his ears during some sort of
seizure on December 23, 1888. Mental problems afflicted him, particularly
in the last few years of his life. During some of these periods he did
not paint, or was not allowed to. There has been much debate over the
years as to the source of Van Gogh's mental illness and its effect on
his work. Over 150 psychiatrists have attempted to label his illness,
and some 30 different diagnoses have been suggested.
Diagnoses which have been put forward include schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, syphilis, poisoning from swallowed paints, temporal lobe epilepsy
and acute intermittent porphyria. Any of these could have been the culprit
and been aggravated by malnutrition, overwork, insomnia, and a fondness
for alcohol, and absinthe in particular.
Medical theories have even been proposed to explain Van Gogh's use of
the color yellow. One theory holds that Van Gogh's color vision might
have been affected by his love of absinthe, a liquor that contains a neurotoxin
called thujone. High doses of thujone can cause xanthopsia: seeing objects
in yellow. However, a 1991 study indicated that an absinthe drinker would
become unconscious from the alcohol content long before consuming enough
thujone to develop yellow vision. Another theory suggests that Dr. Gachet
might have prescribed digitalis to Van Gogh as a treatment for epilepsy.
There is no direct evidence that he ever took digitalis, but he did paint
Gachet with some cut flower stalks of Common Foxglove, the plant from
which the drug is derived. Those who take large doses of digitalis often
report yellow-tinted vision or yellow spots surrounded by coronas, like
those in the The Starry Night.]
Another recently proposed illness is lead poisoning. The paints used
at the time were lead-based, and one of the symptoms of lead poisoning
is a swelling of the retinas which could have caused the halo effect seen
in many of Van Gogh's works.
Van Gogh drew and painted water-colours, while he went to school, though
very few of these works survive, and his authorship is challenged for
many claimed to be from this period.
When Van Gogh committed himself to art as an adult (1880), he started
at the elementary level by copying the "Cours de dessin," edited
by Charles Bargue and published by Goupil & Cie. Within his first
two years he began to seek commissions, and in spring 1882, his uncle,
Cornelis Marinus (owner of a renowned gallery of contemporary art in Amsterdam)
asked him to provide drawings of the Hague; Van Gogh's work did not prove
up to his uncle's expectations. Despite this, Uncle Cor (or "C.M."
as he was referred to by his nephews) offered a second commission, specifying
the subject matter in detail, but he was once again disappointed with
Nevertheless, Van Gogh persevered with his work. He improved the lighting
of his atelier (studio) by installing variable shutters, and experimented
with a variety of drawing materials. For more than a year he worked hard
on single figureshighly elaborated studied in "black and white,"
which at the time gained him only criticism. Nowadays they are appreciated
as his first masterpieces. In spring 1883, he embarked on multi-figure
compositions, based on the drawings. He had some of them photographed,
but when his brother commented that they lacked liveliness and freshness,
Vincent destroyed them and turned to oil painting.
Already in autumn 1882, Theo had enabled him to do his first paintings,
but the amount Theo could supply was soon spent. Then, in spring 1883,
Vincent turned to renowned Hague School artists like Weissenbruch and
Blommers, and received technical support from them, as well as from painters
like De Bock and Van der Weele, both Hague School artists of the second
generation. When he moved to Nuenen, after the intermezzo in Drenthe,
he started various large size paintings, but he destroyed most of them
himself. The Potato Eaters and its companion pieces, The Old Tower on
the Nuenen cemetery and The Cottage, are the only ones that have survived.
After a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Vincent was aware that
many faults of his paintings were due to a lack of technical experience.
So he went to Antwerp, and later to Paris to improve his technical skill.
More or less acquainted to impressionist and neo-impressionist techniques
and theories, Van Gogh went to Arles to develop these new possibilities.
But within a short time, older ideas on art and work reappeared: ideas
like doing series on related or contrasting subject matter, which would
reflect the purpose of art. Already in 1884 in Nuenen he had worked on
a series that was to decorate the dining room of a friend in Eindhoven.
Similarly in Arles, in spring 1888 he arranged his Flowering Orchards
into triptychs, set out for a series of figures which found its end in
The Roulin Family, and finally, when Gauguin had consented to work and
live in Arles side by side with Vincent, he started to work on the The
Décoration for the Yellow House, probably the most ambitious effort
he ever undertook. Most of his later work is elaborating or revising its
The paintings from the Saint-Rémy period are often characterized
by swirls and spirals. The patterns of luminosity in these images have
been shown to conform to Kolmogorov's statistical model of turbulence.
At various times in his life Van Gogh painted the view from his window;
this culminated in the great series of paintings of the wheat field he
could see from his adjoining cells in the asylum at Saint-Rémy.
Main article: List of notable works by Vincent van Gogh
Many of Van Gogh's paintings, such as The Starry Night (1889) have become
iconic; some have established auction record prices, such as his Portrait
of Dr. Gachet, sold for USD $82.5 million at Christie's, on May 15, 1990.
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam houses the estate of Vincent and Theo
van Gogh; it is, by the number of its holdings, the largest Van Gogh collection
in the world. Considering the quality of its holdings, the Kröller-Müller
Museum in Otterlo (also in the Netherlands)with some 270 works,
the second-largest Van Gogh collectionis thought by many to house
the more important collection.
Main articles: Posthumous fame of Vincent van Gogh and Cultural depictions
of Vincent van Gogh
Since his first exhibits in the late 1880s, Van Gogh's fame grew steadily,
among his colleagues and among art critics, dealers and collectors. After
his death, memorial exhibitions were mounted in Brussels, Paris, The Hague
and Antwerp. After the turn of the century, they were followed by vast
retrospectives in Paris (1901 and 1905), Amsterdam (1905), Cologne (1912),
New York City (1913) and Berlin (1914). These prompted an impact over
a new generation of artists. The French Fauves, including Henri Matisse,
extended both his use of color and freedom in applying it, as did German
Expressionists in the Die Brücke group. 1950s Abstract Expressionism
is seen as benefiting from the exploration Van Gogh started with gestural
marks. In 1957, Anglo-Irish artist Francis Bacon based several paintings
on reproductions of Van Gogh's The Painter on his Way to Work (which had
been destroyed in World War II).
Vincent van Gogh. (2007, February 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 09:47, February 2, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vincent_van_Gogh&oldid=104915861
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