Vincent van Gogh – One of the Greatest Painters in History

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh
(30 March 1853, Groot-Zundert, Netherlands – July 29, 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, France) (aged 37)
Nationality: Netherlands
Category: Art Creators
Occupation: Painters
Specification: Post-impressionism, Expressionism
Unique distinction: One of history’s greatest painters, one of the founders of modern art. The leading exponent of Post-impressionism and Expressionism. The prototype of the misunderstood and tormented genius.
Gender: Male

Vincent van Gogh Quotes:
1. It is good to love many things, for therein lies true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.
2. I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.
3. If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
4. I feel such a creative force in me: I am convinced that there will be a time when, let us say, I will make something good every day, on a regular basis.
5 There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
6. As a suffering creature, I cannot do without something greater than I – something that is my life – the power to create.
7. What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
8. The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting.
9. I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.
10. I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.
11. If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.
12. Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.
Video: Biography

Achievements and contributions:

Social and professional position: Vincent Van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter.
The main contribution to (Best known for): Van Gogh is one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. His masterpieces are the well-known The Starry Night, Sunflowers, Cafe Terrace at Night and Self-Portraits.


Vincent Van Gogh was a great Post-Impressionist painter. At the same time, his work had a powerful influence on Expressionism, Fauvism, early abstraction and generally on the development of modern art.
Van Gogh began painting when he was nearly 26 years old, and most of his best-known works were produced during his final two years. He produced more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches, of which he sold only one in his lifetime.
His career as an artist lasted only 10 years and coincided with frequent bouts of depression and anguish.
His brief, turbulent, and tragic life is the prototype of the misunderstood, suffering artist and an example of the myth of the genius as a discarded and alienated visionary.
Vincent Van Gogh resided in Nuenen in the Netherlands from 1883-1885. (Now a statue of Van Gogh is located in the central park of the town). During his two-year stay there he completed numerous drawings and watercolours and nearly 200 oil paintings. His painting The Potato Eaters was also created while he lived in Nuenen.
During his Dutch period (1880-1886) Van Gogh executed works in which his overriding humanitarian concerns were overtly manifest. His early work consists mainly of sombre earth tones, particularly dark brown or dark greenish-brown.
However, despite the dark palette in his famous painting The Potato Eaters (1885), he succeeded to catch a warm commonality, a remarkable sense of love and fellowship which his painted peasants seem to share.
In 1886 after meeting Thomas Monticelli in Paris  Van Gogh immediately adopted a brighter palette. By the summer of 1887, he was painting in pure colours and using broken brushwork at times pointillistic. At this time, impressed by the theories of Seurat and Signac, he adopted elements of pointillism, whereby many small dots are applied to the canvas to give an optical blend of hues when seen from a distance.
Pissarro convinced him to adopt a colourful palette and thereby made a tremendously significant contribution to Van Gogh’s art.
His painting Père Tanguy (1887) was the first complete and successful work in his new colours. He painted several Paris street scenes in Montmartre and elsewhere, including Bridges across the Seine at Asnieres (1887).
He completed two series of sunflowers: the first while he was in Paris in 1887, and the second in 1888 during his stay in Arles. The first series shows living flowers, and the second – dying in vases.
By the beginning of 1888, his Post-Impressionist style had crystallized.
In February 1888,  having painted over 200 paintings during his two years in Paris, he moved to the south of France in Arles.
There he worked feverishly and for  15 months he painted over 200 pictures.
At this time he applied colour in simplified, highly saturated masses, his drawing became more virile and incisive than ever before, and objects seemed to radiate a light of their own without giving off shadows.
Hoping to have a gallery to display his work, his major project at this time was a series of paintings the most famous of which included: Van Gogh’s Chair (1888), The Night Café (1888), Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888), Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888).
During Van Gogh’s stay at Saint-Rémy (1889-1990) his art changed markedly. His colours lost the intensity of the Arles period:  His lines became writhing and restless. Van Gogh was drawn to objects in nature under stress: whirling suns, twisted cypresses, and surging mountains. In Starry Night (1889) the whole world seems engulfed by a paroxysm of circular movements.
Van Gogh arrived at Auvers on May 21 1890. In June 1890, he painted Portrait of Dr Gachet a physician and collector who watched over him.
The blue of the Auvers period was not the fully saturated blue of Arles but a more mysterious, flickering blue. In his last painting, the  Wheat Field With Crows, Van Gogh showed a topsy-turvy world.

Creative Style

1. Unique and powerful creative vision.
He had the courage to have his individual unique vision and his own way of perceiving beauty and truth. He found the form of its expression and channelled it to the outside world through his creative painting.
Physicist Jose Aragon (Mexico) has found that Van Gogh’s works have a pattern of light and dark that closely follows the deep mathematical structure of the turbulent flow.
He states that Gogh had a unique ability to see and depict turbulence. This kind of vision relates to the understanding of the deep essence of reality as the turbulence process (A. Kolmogorov, 1940) or a system of torsion interactions.
Thus the paintings from the Saint-Rémy period are often characterized by swirls and spirals. The power of Van Gogh’s vision manifests itself in the transformation and restructuring of the habitual patterns and external worlds.
2. Vivid colours. Van Gogh is especially known for his bold and powerful use of vivid,  flame-like and contrasting colours and their powerful emotional impact.  His style stresses the value of complementary colours—including blue and orange—to form vibrant contrasts and enhance each other when juxtaposed.
3. Powerful expression. His style is remarkable for extraordinary energy and activity and his paintings at this time reveal an intensity and convulsive force. Van Gogh painted very rapidly, with a sense of urgency, using the paint straight from the tube in thick, graphic brush strokes (impasto).
“I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, ill as I am, do without something which is greater than I am, which is my life — the power to create.” Letter (#531) to his brother Theo, dated 3 September 1888.
“But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things.”
“Painting is a faith and imposes the duty to disregard public opinion.”
“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.”
The art of Van Gogh, with its intense colour and writhing forms, became, through its impact on the Fauvists and German Expressionists.

Mental Illness and creativity

He suffered from anxiety and increasingly frequent bouts of mental illness almost throughout his life.
Some 30 different diagnoses have been suggested, which include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and depression.  Any of these could have been aggravated by malnutrition, overwork, insomnia,  poisoning from swallowed paints and consumption of alcohol, especially absinthe. Van Gogh often used chrome yellow and cadmium yellow paints which were toxic.
How his mental illness affected his painting has been a subject of speculation.  Perhaps the painful and chaotic state of his mind destroyed familiar patterns and stereotypes of perception, which, together with the powerful and painful impulse to harmony, beauty and truth have led to surprising discoveries. Moreover, this new vision of the world is instantly reflected on the canvas as a deeply intimate revelation.

Recognition and financial success

During his lifetime, Van Gogh’s work was represented in two very small exhibitions and two larger ones. Only one of Van Gogh’s paintings was sold while he lived. “The Red Vineyard” (1888) was sold in 1890 to the Belgian painter Anna Boch (1848–1936)  for 400 francs ($80).
Today many of his pieces are among the world’s most recognizable and most expensive paintings in the world.
Van Gogh’s painting Irises was sold for $53.9 million (1987), Portrait of Joseph Roulin for $58 (1989), Portrait of Doctor Gachet for $82.5 million (1990), A Wheatfield with Cypresses for $57 (1993), Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat for  $47.5 (1997), Van Gogh’s Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers for $39.7 million ($76.6 million in 2010 dollars), Self-portrait without a beard for $71.5 million (1998).
Van Gogh created many self-portraits during his lifetime. He was a prolific self-portraitist, who painted himself thirty-seven times between 1886 and 1889.
Major works: In just over a decade he created about 2100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings:
View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882), The Potato Eaters (1885), Autumn Landscape (1885), Poppies (1886), Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat (1886-1887), The Bedroom at Arles (1887), Fishing in Spring (1887), A Pair of Shoes (1887),
The Langlois Bridge (1888), Cafe Terrace at Night (1888), Portrait of Joseph Roulin (1888), Sunflowers (1888), Starry Night over the Rhone (1888), The night café (1888),  Vincent’s Room, Arles (1888),  Entrance to the Public Garden in Arles (1888), Van Gogh’s Chair (1888), Bedroom in Arles (1888), The Night Café (1888),  Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888), The Sower (1888), “The Red Vineyard” (1888),
Self Portrait (1889), Starry Night (1889), Irises, Saint-Remy (1889),  Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889), Landscape at Saint-Rémy(1889), Mulberry Tree (1889),
The Church at Auvers (1890),  Village Street in Auvers (1890), Almond Branches in Bloom, San Remy (1890),  Irises (1890), The Round of the Prisoners (1890),  Portrait of Doctor Gachet (1890), Wheat Field with Crows (July 1890).

Career and personal life:

Origin: Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 in Groot-Zundert, a village close to Breda in the province of North Brabant in the southern Netherlands. He was the son of Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. Vincent was given the same name as his grandfather—and a first brother stillborn.
Art and religion were the two occupations to which the Van Gogh family gravitated. His brother Theodorus (Theo) was born on 1 May 1857. He had another brother, Cor, and three sisters: Elisabeth, Anna and Willemina. For family members, he was a wayward and challenging child, for others, he was silent, serious and thoughtful.
Education: He attended the Zundert village school in 1860, where the single Catholic teacher taught around 200 pupils. From 1861 until 1 October 1864  he and his sister Anna were taught at home by a governess.
In 1864  he went away to the elementary boarding school in Zevenbergen, about 20 miles (32 km) away. On 15 September 1866, he went to the new middle school, Willem II College in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

Creative career highlights:

Work as an art dealer (1869-1876).
In 1869 he was apprenticed to The Hague branch of the art dealers Goupil and Co., of which his uncle was a partner.
After his training, in June 1873, Goupil transferred him to London, where he worked from 1873 to May 1875.
This was a happy time for him, he travelled between the Hague, London and Paris 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 feelings to her, she rejected him, saying that she was already secretly engaged to a former lodger.
He was increasingly disappointed, isolated and fervent about religion.
In May 1875 his father and uncle sent him to Paris to work in a dealership. However, he became resentful at how art was treated as a commodity, a fact apparent to customers. He antagonized customers and on  1 April 1876, he was dismissed.

Selfless devotion (1876-1880).
Van Gogh returned to England, where he took an unpaid position as a supply teacher in a small boarding school overlooking the harbour in Ramsgate, where he made sketches of the view.
In May 1877, his family sent him to Amsterdam to study theology.  He failed and left his uncle Jan’s house in July 1878. He then undertook a three-month course at the Protestant missionary school in Laeken, near Brussels.
An early aspiration was to become a pastor and preach the gospel, and from January 1879, he took a temporary post as a missionary in the village of Petit Wasmes in the coal-mining district of Borinage in Belgium.
There he tried to live as a commoner. Van Gogh exhibited the zeal and devotion of a martyr, even sleeping on the floor, and giving away his clothes. But his eccentricities alienated the miners and angered the church authorities, who dismissed him for “undermining the dignity of the priesthood.”  He was dismissed in July 1879.
In 1879 he began to work as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium. During this time he began to sketch people from the local community.
Vincent painted poor people, m
After much introspection, Van Gogh decided in 1880 to devote his life to painting, a profession he accepted as a spiritual calling. He said, “I want  to paint humanity, humanity, and humanity.”  In October 1880 he attended an art school in Brussels, where he studied the rudiments of perspective and anatomy.
Compulsively humanitarian, he always wished to give himself to others but was constantly being rejected.

Dutch period (1880-1886).
In 1880 Van Gogh followed the advice of his brother to attend the Brussels Royal Academy of Art where he studied anatomy and drawing.
In April 1881, Van Gogh moved to the Etten countryside with his parents where he continued drawing, often using neighbours as subjects.
That Christmas he quarrelled violently with his father, to the point of refusing a gift of money, and left for The Hague.
In January 1882, he settled in The Hague where he called on his cousin-in-law, the painter Anton Mauve, who lent him money to set up a studio. Mauve appears to have suddenly gone cold towards Van Gogh when he learned of his relationship with an alcoholic prostitute, Clasina Maria “Sien” Hoornik.
In 1883 Van Gogh’s art dealer uncle, Cornelis commissioned 20 ink drawings of the city, which the artist completed by the end of May. That summer Vincent began to paint in oil.
In autumn 1883, after a year together, he left Sien and moved to the Dutch province of Drenthe, in the northern Netherlands. That December, driven by loneliness, he went to stay with his parents who were by then living in Nuenen, North Brabant.
In Nuenen, he devoted himself to drawing.  On 26 March 1885, his father died of a heart attack and the artist grieved deeply at the loss.
In November 1885, he moved to Antwerp and rented a small room. He had little money and ate poorly, preferring to spend what money his brother Theo sent on painting materials and models. Bread, coffee and tobacco were his staple intake.
Besides he began to drink absinthe heavily. His teeth became loose and caused him much pain.

Years in Paris (1886-1888)
After briefly studying at the Antwerp Academy, in March 1886 he left Holland for Paris, where he joined his brother Theo.  There he met Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted his portrait,  and others involved in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
In Paris, he studied at Fernand Cormon’s studio, where he shared Theo’s Rue Laval apartment on Montmartre.
In November 1887, Theo and Vincent met and befriended Paul Gauguin who had just arrived in Paris. Van Gogh remained in Paris for 20 months.

Arles (February 1888 –May 1889).
He left Paris in February 1888 for Arles. He became enthusiastic about the idea of founding an artists’ cooperative at Arles and in October he was joined by Gauguin. For two months he and van Gogh worked together,  but soon their relations rapidly deteriorated.  They often quarrelled fiercely about art.
On Christmas Eve 1888, physically and emotionally exhausted, van Gogh arguing with Gauguin, confronted him with a razor blade. After this incident, he cut off the lower half of his own left ear. An event commemorated in his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889).
In January 1889, he returned to the Yellow House but spent the following month between hospital and home suffering from hallucinations and delusions that he was being poisoned. In March, the police closed his house after a petition by 30 townspeople, who called him “fou roux” (the redheaded madman).
Paul Signac visited him in the hospital and Van Gogh was allowed home in his company. In April, he moved into rooms owned by Dr Rey.

O Saint-Rémy (May 1889 – May 1890).
On  8 May 1889, he left Arles and entered an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence A former monastery in Saint-Rémy less than 20 miles (32 km) from Arles. Theo arranged for two small rooms with barred windows. The second was to be used as a studio. During his stay, the clinic and its garden became the main subjects of his paintings.
In the year he spent at the asylum Van Gogh worked as feverishly as at Arles and produced 150 paintings and hundreds of drawings.

Auvers-Sur-Oise (May–July 1890).
In May 1890, Van Gogh left the clinic to move nearer the physician Dr Paul Gachet, in Auvers-Sur-Oise outside Paris, where he would also be closer to Theo.

Personal life:

There Constantijn C. Huysmans, a successful artist in Paris, taught Van Gogh to draw at the school. In March 1868, at 15 years old, Van Gogh abruptly left school and returned home. A later comment on his early years was, “My youth was gloomy and cold and sterile…”
His younger brother Théo.
Vincent van Gogh was extremely close with his younger brother, Theodorus, or Theo, who continually provided him with both financial and emotional support. In his grim struggle with a hostile world, Vincent had one constant ally and support, his brother Théo, with whom he corresponded during his whole creative life.

Letters. The most comprehensive primary source for the understanding of Van Gogh as an artist and individuality is the collection of letters that were passed between him and his younger brother Theo.
Most were written by Vincent to Theo beginning in August 1872  until 1890. There are more than 600 letters from Vincent to Theo and 40 from Theo to Vincent. Most of them include Van Gogh’s thoughts and theories of art.
Little appreciated during his lifetime, his fame grew in the years after his death. Today, he is widely regarded as one of history’s greatest painters and an important contributor to the foundations of modern art.

Relationships with women

«One must be good and kind to women, children and the weak. I have a sort of respect for them. I am moved by them». (Letter, July 1882)
Van Gogh hungered for love all throughout his turbulent life, but his contradictory and complicated personality and lack of social skills did not allow him to be happy in his personal life.
When he was 22 years old he fell in love with Eugénie Loyer, but when he finally confessed his feelings to her, she rejected him.
Through the 1881 summer in the Etten, he spent much time walking and talking with his recently widowed cousin, Kee Vos-Stricker.  Kee was seven years older than Van Gogh and had an eight-year-old son. He proposed marriage, but she refused with the words, “No, never, never” (niet, nooit, nimmer).
Kee refused to see him and her parents wrote, “Your persistence is disgusting”. Once in desperation, he held his left hand in the flame of a lamp, with the words “Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame.”
In January 1882 in the Hague, he met Sien, who was an alcoholic prostitute, had a five-year-old daughter and was pregnant. She had already borne two children who had died, although Van Gogh was unaware of this.
On 2 July, Sien gave birth to a baby boy, Willem.
In the autumn of 1883, after a year together, he left Sien and the two children.
His girlfriend Sien’s son Willem believed himself to be Van Gogh’s son, however, the timing of his birth makes this unlikely. In 1904, Sien drowned at her own hand in the river Scheldt.
In autumn 1884, in Nuenen, Margot Begemann, a neighbour’s daughter ten years older than Vincent, often accompanied the artist on his painting forays. She fell in love, and he reciprocated—though less enthusiastically. They decided to marry, but the idea was opposed by both families. As a result, Margot took an overdose of strychnine. She was saved when Van Gogh rushed her to a nearby hospital.
In 1885 after he painted his The Potato Eaters, he was accused of forcing himself on one of his young sitters, the seventeen-year-old peasant girl Stien de Groot, who became pregnant that September.
Once prostitute Rachel, a  kind woman, said to Vincent that she likes him. To the question what do you like? She replied: “Your ears. ”
On Christmas Eve 1888, after a quarrel with Gauguin, when Van Gogh confronted a razor blade, he in panic, fled to a local brothel. While there, he cut off the lower part of his left ear lobe. He wrapped the severed tissue in newspaper and handed it to Rachel, asking her to “keep this object carefully.”
Van Gogh’s last three months were spent in Auvers near Pissarro, painting the postman Roulin and the Dr Gachet. In May and June 1890 Vincent was followed by another burst of activity, but he soon suffered a relapse.
On 27 July 1890, aged 37, he walked into a lonely field and shot himself in the chest with a revolver.
Then he back home and lay down in his bed, where he died on the 29th. at 1:30 am in the arms of his brother Teo.
Remains: Buried, Auvers-Sur-Oise Town Cemetery, Auvers-Sur-Oise, France
Teo died six months later, on 25 January, at Utrecht. In 1914, Theo’s body was exhumed and re-buried with his brother at Auvers-Sur-Oise.

Zest: I
n letters to his brother Theo, van Gogh frequently declared that he viewed the repetitions as an opportunity to improve and clarify his initial composition. There are two versions of his famous artwork Meadow with Flowers under a Stormy Sky (1888), four versions, varying in size, of the Wheat Field with Cypresses painting (1889), and seven and actually five versions of Sunflowers in Vase (1888-1889), and Thirty-nine of Van Gogh’s self-portraits