Artists: Vincent Van Gogh Synopsis

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Artists: Vincent Van Gogh

Synopsis: Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in Groot Zundert, Netherlands. He was a post-impressionist painter. His work is known for its beauty, emotion and color. He struggled with mental illness, and remained poor and virtually unknown throughout his life. Van Gogh died in France on July 29, 1890, at age 37, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Early Life

Vincent van Gogh was born Vincent Willem van Gogh on March 30, 1853, in Groot Zundert, Netherlands. His father, Theodorus van Gogh, was a country minister. His mother, Anna Cornelia Carbentus, was a moody artist.

At age 15, van Gogh's family was struggling financially. He was forced to leave school and go to work. Van Gogh got a job at his Uncle Cornelis' art dealership, Goupil & Cie., in The Hague.

In June of 1873, van Gogh was transferred to the Goupil Gallery in London, where he fell in love with English culture. He also fell in love with his landlady's daughter. When she rejected his marriage proposal, van Gogh suffered a breakdown and was fired from the gallery.

Van Gogh then taught in a Methodist boys' school. Hoping to become a minister, he prepared to take the entrance exam to the School of Theology in Amsterdam. However, he refused to take the Latin exams, calling Latin a "dead language" of poor people, and was not admitted to the school.

In the fall of 1880, van Gogh decided to move to Brussels to become an artist. His younger brother Theo, who worked as an art dealer, offered to support him financially.

Van Gogh had a catastrophic love life. He fell in love with his recently widowed cousin Kate, who became disgusted and fled to her home in Amsterdam. Van Gogh then moved to The Hague and fell in love with Clasina Maria Hoornik, who became his mistress and model. In 1882, he left her after his family threatened to cut off his money.


Van Gogh's art helped him stay emotionally balanced. In 1885, he began work on what is considered to be his first masterpiece, "Potato Eaters." The next year he moved to Paris, showing up uninvited at his brother Theo's apartment.

In Paris, van Gogh first saw impressionist art, and was inspired by its color and light. He began studying with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro and other painters. 

Van Gogh became influenced by Japanese art. Toulouse-Lautrec told him that the light in the village of Arles in the south of France was just like the light in Japan. In February 1888, van Gogh moved into a "little yellow house" in Arles. He spent most of his money on paint rather than decent food, and before long he was very ill.

One night van Gogh went to the local brothel and paid for a prostitute named Rachel. Blood pouring from his hand, he offered her the ear he had cut from his head. The police admitted him to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital. Theo arrived on Christmas Day to see van Gogh, who was weak and having seizures.

On January 7, 1889, van Gogh was released from the hospital.

The people of Arles signed a petition saying van Gogh was dangerous. As a result, he decided to move to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. On May 8, 1889, he began painting in the hospital gardens. In November 1889, he was invited to exhibit his paintings in Brussels. He sent six paintings, including "Irises" and "Starry Night."

Death And Legacy

On July 27, 1890, van Gogh shot himself in the chest, but the bullet did not kill him immediately. He died two days later in the arms of his brother, only 37 years old.

Theo died six months later. His wife Johanna collected as many of van Gogh's paintings as she could, though many of them had been destroyed. On March 17, 1901, 71 of van Gogh's paintings were displayed at a show in Paris, and his fame grew enormously. 

Today, Vincent van Gogh is considered the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt. He completed more than 2,100 works, including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings and sketches. Several of his paintings rank among the most expensive in the world. "Irises" sold for a record $53.9 million, and his "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" sold for $82.5 million.
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