Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted. His work was then known to only a handful of people.

Vincent was born in the Netherlands. As a child, Vincent was serious, silent and thoughtful. He started to work in 1869 as an art dealer and spent one year in London, an happy time for Vincent, being successful at work. He fell in love with his landlady's daughter, but she rejected him. Through his life he was rejected by several women whom he wanted to marry. He became increasingly isolated and fervent about religion. He traveled to Brussels intending to follow his brother's recommendation to study with the prominent Dutch artist Willem Roelofs, and attend the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts.

In 1881, Van Gogh moved places several time. He kept drawing and set a studio thanks to his cousin-in-law, Anton Mauve a leading member of the Hague School who introduced him to painting in oil and watercolor. His palette consisted mainly of somber earth tones. He had another heart love failure with a daughter's neighbor. In 1885 he painted The Potato Eaters, the culmination of several years work painting peasant character studies. His work was exhibited for the first time, in the windows of a paint dealer in The Hague. From this period, his work is characterized by smooth, meticulous brushwork and fine shading of colors. In November 1885, he moved to Antwerp. He had little money and began to drink absinthe heavily. Despite his rejection of academic teaching, he took the higher-level admission exams at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, and in January 1886, matriculated in painting and drawing.

Van Gogh traveled to Paris in March 1886, where he shared Theo's apartment in Montmartre, to study at Fernand Cormon's studio where he met fellow students like Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. With Émile Bernard he adopted elements of pointillism. In Paris, he painted portraits of friends and acquaintances, still-life paintings, scenes in Montmartre, Asnières, and along the Seine. During his stay, he collected Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints. In 1887, Theo and Vincent met and befriended Paul Gauguin. Towards the end of the year, Vincent arranged an exhibition of paintings by himself, Bernard, Anquetin, and probably Toulouse-Lautrec in the Grand-Bouillon Restaurant du Chalet. Finally in February 1888, feeling worn out from life in Paris, he left, having painted over 200 paintings during his two years in the city.

Van Gogh moved to Arles, hoping for refuge at a time when he was ill from drink and suffering from smoker's cough. Van Gogh was enchanted by the local landscape and light, and his works from the period excel in the intensity of color. Three of these paintings were shown at the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. When Gauguin agreed to visit Arles, Van Gogh hoped for friendship and for an utopian idea of a collective of artists. In anticipation that August he painted sunflowers. They started to paint together and their first joint outdoor painting exercise produced Les Alyscamps.

The two visited Montpellier but their relationship began to deteriorate. Van Gogh greatly admired Gauguin, and desperately wanted to be treated as his equal. But Gauguin was arrogant and domineering. On 23 December 1888, frustrated and ill, Van Gogh confronted Gauguin with a razor blade, but in panic, left and fled to a local brothel. While there, he cut off parts of his left ear. Van Gogh was taken to a hospital and remained in a critical state for several days. In January 1889, he spent time between the hospital and home, suffering from hallucinations and delusions that he was being poisoned. Two months later he had left Arles and entered an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

During his stay, the clinic and its garden became the main subjects of his paintings. He made several studies of the hospital interiors. Some of the work from this time is characterized by swirls. Limited access to the world outside the clinic resulted in a shortage of subject matter. Many of his most compelling works date from this period. In February 1890 he was invited by Les XX, a society of avant-garde painters in Brussels, to participate in their annual exhibition. Later, while Van Gogh's exhibit was on display with the Artistes Indépendants in Paris, Monet said that his work was the best in the show.

In May 1890, Van Gogh left the clinic in Saint-Rémy to move nearer the physician Dr. Paul Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise, and also to his brother Theo. Gachet was recommended by Camille Pissarro, had treated several other artists, and was himself an amateur artist. Several of the approximately 70 oils he painted during his 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oise, are reminiscent of northern scenes. The technique he developed in the last weeks of his life had its turbulent intensity, it is among his most haunting and elemental works. While many of Vincent's late paintings are somber, they are essentially optimistic and reflect his desire to return to lucid mental health right up to the time of his death. On 27 July 1890, Van Gogh is believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver even there were no witnesses and the location where he shot himself is unclear. Theo rushed to be with Van Gogh as soon as he was notified, and found him in surprisingly good shape, but within hours Van Gogh began to fail due to an untreated infection caused by the wound. Van Gogh died in the evening.

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