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Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 to a pastor in Groot-Zundert, Holland. Growing up in an atmosphere marked by religion and culture, van Gogh was a sensitive, diffident youth. After trying out varied jobs as a bookstore clerk, art salesman and preacher, Vincent finally found his calling as an artist.

During the late eighties, he joined his younger brother Théo, an art gallery manager in Paris. The emotional, edgy painter was a difficult person. His obsessive habit of painting all day followed by late night discussions on art with other painters soon affected his health.

Letters to Théo

Much of what we know about van Gogh comes from the artist's prolific letters to Théo in the years he spent away from Paris. Vincent was a lucid, expressive writer. His letters, carefully preserved by Théo were later compiled by the latter's wife Johanna van-Gogh Bonger and published as a book in 1914.


In Paris, Vincent met with Impressionist masters like Monet and Pisarro whose work dramatically impacted his style. It was Paul Gauguin who arguably influenced his work the most.

With ill-health dogging him in the late 1880s, van Gogh decided to move to Arles in southern France, hoping to establish a school of art with his friends. Gauguin accompanied him, but their friendship was doomed. One day, the temperamental Vincent chased Gauguin with a razor. Gauguin stopped him, but the scuffle ended with Vincent cutting off part of his own ear lobe.

Van Gogh's Death

It was the beginning of the end. Vincent swung between fits of depression and hallucinations followed by periods of intense lucidity during which he would throw himself into painting. He was admitted to an asylum for treatment. In May 1890, he seemed to recover and stayed with Dr. Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise. But in July that year, he shot himself in the chest and died.

Best Known Works

Today, the world pays homage to this tormented artist.

Thousands of his works sell as prints and reproduced art. Starry Night tops the list, an instantly recognisable image endlessly replicated on prints and varied merchandise and celebrated in song, too, Vincent, by Don McLean. Two related works, Starry Night over the Rhone and Café Terrace at Night continue to astound art lovers worldwide.

Van Gogh painted several series of works based on a single theme, Cypresses, Flowering Orchards, Flowers and Wheat Fields. He also created 37 self-portraits, among which Self-Portrait without Beard is one of the world's most expensive paintings.

The tremendous appreciation that van Gogh's works evoke in modern times makes it hard to believe that the artist sold just one painting during his life time!


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