Vincent Van Gogh Biography
Generally considered the greatest Dutch painter and draughtsman after Rembrandt. With Cezanne and Gauguin the greatest of Post-Impressionist artists. Vincent Van Gogh powerfully influenced the current of Expressionism in modern art. His work, all of it produced during a period of only 10 years, hauntingly conveys through its striking colour, coarse brushwork, and contoured forms the anguish of a mental illness that eventually resulted in suicide.
His father was a Protestant pastor, and van Gogh first trained for the ministry, but he abandoned his studies in 1878 and went to work as a lay preacher among the impoverished miners in Belgium. In his zeal he gave away his own worldly goods to the poor and was dismissed for his literal interpretation of Christ's teaching. Vincent Van Gogh remained in Belgium until 1880, when he found that art was his vocation. From this time he worked at his new `mission' with single-minded frenzy, and although he often suffered from extreme poverty and undernourishment, his output in the ten remaining years of his life was prodigious: about 800 paintings and a similar number of drawings.
From 1881 to 1885 van Gogh lived in the Netherlands, sometimes in lodgings, supported by his devoted brother Theo. The most famous picture from this period being The Potato Eaters (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; 1885). In February 1886 he moved to Paris, where he met Pissarro, Degas, Gauguin, Seurat and Toulouse-Latrec.
At this time his oil painting underwent a violent metamorphosis under the combined influence of Impressionism and Japanese woodcuts, losing its moralistic flavour of social realism. Van Gogh became obsessed by the symbolic and expressive values of colors and began to use them for this purpose rather than, as did the Impressionists, for the reproduction of visual appearances, atmosphere, and light. `Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes,' he wrote, `I use color more arbitrarily so as to express myself more forcibly'.
In February 1888 van Gogh settled at Arles, where he painted more than 200 canvases in 15 months. During this time he sold no pictures, was in poverty, and suffered recurrent nervous crisis with hallucinations and depression. Towards the end of the year he was joined by Gauguin. But as a result of a quarrel between them van Gogh suffered the crisis in which occured the famous incident when he cut off his left ear, an event commemorated in his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.
In May 1889, he went at his own request into an asylum but continued painted 150 pictures during the year he spent there. In May 1890 van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise. There followed another tremendous burst of strenuous activity and during the last 70 days of his life he painted 70 canvases. But his spiritual anguish and depression became more acute and on 29 July 1890 he died from the results of a self-inflicted bullet wound.
Best known paintings: Sunflowers, Starry Night
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