Vincent Van Gogh Biography | Oil Paintings
3-30-1853 Zundert, NED - 7-29-1890 Paris, FRABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Vincent Van Gogh was a leading Post-Impressionist and forerunner of Expressionism. The son of a Protestant minister, he studied theology in his youth. Vincent's first job was for a firm of art dealers, but he was sacked after a failed affair affected his ability to work and antagonizing customers. After a brief stint as a teacher, There followed many yet vain attempts to enter the world of the art market in London, Paris, and the Hague. Thus, he decided to leave for Borinage, a mining region in Belgium, where he returned to preaching. There Vincent's natural talent for painting began to mature. Here again, he was fired when the church became concerned at his overzealous attempts to help the poor. Vincent Van Gogh had at least found his true vocation: illustrating the plight of the local peasantry.
The budding artist soon moved to Brussels and eventually to Antwerp where he began attending class at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. But no academic training can suppress his instinctive desire to express himself free from the traditional rules of perspective and technique. Van Gogh never hid his lack of technical training. If we were to check his works according to academic criteria, we would be forced to point out many serious faults. Van Gogh ignored the most basic obvious rules of perspective, concentrating only on the intensity of expression.
Previously, influenced by Jean-Francois Millet, in 1886 Van Gogh went to Paris where his style changed. Under the combined impact of Impressionism and Japanese prints, his palette lightened and he began to use bold simplifications of form. The foremost French painter of the Post-Impressionist period, the kindly Camille Pissarro convinced him to adopt a colorful palette and thereby made a significant contribution to Van Gogh's art.
Daumier influenced Van Gogh's early works, which often commented on the social and economic conditions of the lower class. In 1886, thanks to the hospitality of his brother Theo, Van Gogh returned to Paris, where the controversy over the new Impressionist style was still raging. In Paris, he was inspired by the artwork Adolphe Monticelli, whom he never met because he died a few months before van Gogh arrived. But, once Van Gogh settled in Arles, he studied Monticelli's technique and experimented for some works this colorful and particularly expressive style of painting. Vincent wrote to his brother Theo in 1888. "I sometimes think I am really continuing that man."
Starry Night over the Rhone, the images of stars reflected in the water of the Rhone River on a serene night in Arles is transformed here into a cosmic spectacle, shot through with an unprecedented energy that reflects the artist's inner tension.
The Night Cafe, the domain of night owls, drifters, and artists in search of solace, this cafe is dominated by the bulky, placed billiard table. The cafe owner, in his white jacket, serves as a visual break from the bright colors, further intensified by the artificial lights. Works like this one show Van Gogh's vital importance in the later development of Expressionism.
With financial help from his brother Theo, Vincent moved to the south of France. In 1888, he settled in Arles, where he was joined by Paul Gauguin, many masterpieces were born of this extraordinary union, though it lasted only a few drama-filled months. Like Gauguin, he also used colors symbolically, rather than naturalistically. During this time, Van Gogh began to suffer from anxiety attacks and fits of violence, during which he mutilated his left ear in the course of his first attack of dementia which led him to be hospitalized. While in the hospital ward, he continued to paint at a frenzied pace but his condition began to deteriorate.
Two of the paintings he did the year of his death are Prisoners' Round where he is obsessed by the need for truth, Van Gogh saw reality as a challenge, which led to madness and suicide. The other being Self-Portrait 1890, the tragic and tortured course of his life is reflected in his self-portraits. During his brief, feverish sojourn in France, Van Gogh pushed far beyond the pleasant atmosphere of the Impressionist paintings, infusing each individual brush stroke with existential significance.
Van Gogh a Total Failure Kills Himself.
One of his most dramatic and foreboding paintings, Wheatfield with Crows as Van Gogh committed suicide in July at the edge of the same wheat field. During this period he was seized by a terrible creative frenzy and began working at a frantic pace, which only served to aggravate his growing anxiety. The distorted landscape and sinister black crows, roughly sketched with minimal brushstrokes, allude to the intense inner turmoil that would soon cause the artist to end his life. The colors are not mixed or diluted and each stroke is deliberate and visible. The bright yellow wheat contrasts with the brown earth and the looming dark blue sky as if the elements were at war with each other. The sense of conflict is further accentuated by the artist's use of rough lines, and the complete absence of “classical” harmony and tonal subtleties. A simple wheat field is completely transformed into a reflection of the artist's disturbed mental state, and its pictorial rendition is only vaguely linked to the external reality.
Vincent despaired, one day he walks to a wheat field and shoots himself in the chest. He stumbles back to his lodging, where he dies two days later in the arms of his brother at the age of 37. He tried to kill himself at the edge of the same wheat field. Vincent's coffin is covered with yellow flowers, his easel, camp stool and his brushes placed on the ground beside the coffin. Theo's own health suffers a precipitous decline and six months later, Theo dies.
Van Gogh Sold only One Painting in his Lifetime, fake news.
The story persists that Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, this has become folklore and even some art historians don't want to change the story. It is certainly more romantic to say that Van Gogh, selling only one painting, being a total failure, killed himself. The “one” painting sold was The Red Vineyard (The Red Vines) sold at Brussels in early 1890 for today's equivalent of US$1,000. Although there are letters referring to the second sale of a portrait, of who, it is not known. In those days, bartering with artwork for food or painting supplies was a common practice among “starving” artists. Therefore, a few of his paintings ended up in people's hands. So to say that Van Gogh, selling only one painting, being a total failure and killed himself is incorrect, and should be updated to read, Van Gogh, selling only two painting, being a total failure, killed himself. His work has since become the most popular and sought-after of any modern artist. His influence on Expressionism, Fauvism and early Abstraction were enormous and his influence on twentieth-century art, even greater.
Van Gogh's works are among the world's most expensive paintings. Those sold for over US$100 million include Portrait of Doctor Gachet, Portrait of Postman Joseph Roulin and Irises. In 2015 L'Allée des Alyscamps sold for US$66.3 million at auction in New York.
Look at our THEN & NOW section. See the actual present-day locations where famous artists such as Vincent Van Gogh painted their famous museum oil paintings. We travel the world, tracked down the locations where the artist set up their easel and photographed it, as it appears today, with side by side comparisons between the original oil paintings and present-day location.
Art Movement: Post-Impressionism.
Artists Influencing Van Gogh: Jean-Francois Millet, Louis Anquetin, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Adolphe Monticelli.
He Traveled To France, Netherlands, Belgium, England.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.