Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1850)

“I am risking my life for my work, and half my reason has gone”

Introduction:

The archetype of the misunderstood genius, Vincent van Gogh has become one of the most renowned figures in the history of western art. With his dazzling colors, eloquent brush work, and disdain for the classical norms of painting, van Gogh revolutionized the nineteenth century art world and helped to prepare the ground for the pioneers of modern art.

Biography:

Vincent van Gogh was born Holland in 1853, one of six children of an evangelical pastor. After various failed attempts at finding a profession, including a stint as a lay clergyman, in 1880 van Gogh committed himself to his artistic career. During his years as an artist, van Gogh was supported financially and emotionally by his younger brother Theo, an art dealer in Paris with whom he was extremely close.

At the urging of Theo, van Gogh moved to Paris to launch his career as an artist. Here he encountered Impressionism, which had a huge influence on his work, and met several artists, including fellow post-Impressionist Gauguin. In 1888, van Gogh invited Gauguin to work with him in the “studio of the South.” The studio only lasted for two tumultuous months, terminating in perhaps the most famous anecdote of van Gogh’s life: after an explosive argument, the artist cut off his left ear and gave it to a prostitute as a gift, resulting in Gauguin’s immediate departure. The failure of the studio of the south was one of van Gogh’s major life regrets.

From 1888-90, van Gogh continued to paint, but now as an inmate of a sanatorium. Van Gogh seems to have used art as a therapy both for the pain of his epileptic seizures and for his frequent attacks of depression, and his output was astounding. In the last seventy days of his life, he executed as many paintings, the last of which was the famous Crows over Cornfield of 1890. The work was still drying on its easel when van Gogh shot himself in the stomach, dying with the words: “Who would believe that life could be so sad?”

Sunflowers

Van Gogh Sunflowers painting
Sunflowers, 1888
Oil on canvas, 92.1 x 73 cm.
National Gallery, London.

Style:

Van Gogh’s work is characterized by its intensely rich palette of blues, reds, oranges and yellows, as well as acutely expressive brushwork. Van Gogh’s hand is unmistakable: his strokes are rhythmic and bold, agitated and swirling. The surface of his paintings tends to be thick and textured, perhaps speaking to the influence of fellow Dutchman Rembrandt, who van Gogh greatly admired.

Major Works:

The Potato Eaters

Van Gogh The Potato Eaters painting
Starry Night
The Potato Eaters, 1885
Oil on canvas, 82 x 114 cm.
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Cafe Terrace at Night
Van Gogh Cafe Terrace at Night painting
Cafe Terrace at Night, 1888
Oil on canvas, 81 × 65.5 cm.
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.
Van Gogh Starry Night painting
Crows over Cornfield, 1890
oil on canvas, 50.5 X 103 cm.
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Starry Night, 1889
Oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm.
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Crows over Cornfield
Van Gogh Crows over Cornfield painting

To learn more about the lives and works of some of the most compelling artists in the history of art, click on the following links