Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Grood-Zundert, Netherlands. He was a post-impressionist painter whose work was notable for its beauty, color and emotion. His work highly influenced 20th century art.
Vincent’s mother was an artist who transferred to her son her love of nature, drawing and watercolors, and his father was an austere country minister. He had a younger brother, Theo, who worked as an art dealer.
Because his family was struggling financially, Vincent was forced to leave school at age 15 and go to work. He got a job at his Uncle Cornelis’ art dealership in The Hague and in 1873, he was transferred to the Groupis Gallery in London, England where he spent his spare time visiting art galleries.
Vincent fell in love with the English culture and, during this time, he also fell in love with his landlady’s daughter. Unfortunately, her rejection of his proposal of marriage led Vincent to a breakdown. As a result, he devoted his life to God. Fired from his gallery job, he went to teach in a Methodist Boys’ school. He also preached to the congregation but was subsequently denied entrance to becoming a minister because he refused to take the Latin exams, calling Latin a “dead language” of poor people.
In the winter of 1878, Vincent moved to a coal mine town in the south of Belgium where he preached and ministered to the sick. He also drew pictures of the miners and their families. His lifestyle, however, displeased the evangelical committees of the Church of Belgium, and they refused to renew Vincent’s contract.
Vincent moved to Brussels in 1880 and became a full-time artist. His brother, Theo, offered to support him financially and he began to study all kinds of books on art.
Vincent’s love life was catastrophic. He was attracted to women in trouble because he thought he could help them. When he moved to The Hague, he fell in love with an alcoholic prostitute who became his companion, mistress and model. When she returned to prostitution, Vincent became so depressed that his family threatened to stop supporting him unless he left her and The Hague.
He then moved to Drenthe, a desolate district in the Netherlands, where he lived a nomadic life for the next six weeks, drawing and painting the landscape and the people living there.
In 1885, he began work on the "Potato Eaters," which is considered to be his first masterpiece. In 1886, Vincent decided to move to Paris where he first saw impressionist art and was inspired by the color and light of the movement. He made friends with fellow artists like Henri do Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Guaguin and Pissarro, and, to save money, they posed for each other instead of hiring models.
However, because Vincent passionately argued with other painters about their works, he alienated those friends who became tired of his bickering.
In 1888, Vincent moved to Arles in the south of France. He spent his money on paint rather than food and lived on coffee, bread and absinthe. He found himself feeling sick and strange and, before long, in addition to being physically ill, he began to deteriorate psychologically. Around this time, he is known to have sipped turpentine and eat paint.
Paul Gauguin joined Vincent in Arles, but within a month, Gauguin walked out because the two of them argued constantly. Vincent pursued him with an open razor, was stopped by Gauguin, but ended up cutting a portion of his own ear lobe off. He then began to alternate between fits of madness and lucidity and was sent to the asylum in Saint-Remy for treatment.
On January 7, 1889, Vincent was released from the hospital. Alone and depressed, he turned to painting and nature, but on July 27, 1890, Vincent went out to paint in the morning as usual, but he carried a loaded pistol and shot himself in the chest. The bullet did not kill him and he was found in his room, bleeding. He was taken to a nearby hospital and his brother Theo was sent for. They spent the next few days together and on July 29th, Vincent died at the age of 37 in Theo’s arms. Vincent died in poverty.
In spite of his lack of success during his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh’s legacy lives on having left a lasting impact on the world of art. He is now viewed as one of the most influential artists having helped lay the foundations of modern art and is considered to be the greatest Dutch Painter after Rembrant.
He created more than 2,100 works, consisting of 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.