Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, one of the most important post-impressionists of Western art history.
Vincent was immensely talented, a talent which was always known to his loyal bother Theo. Vincent wrote to Theo at the end of his life when Vincent was institutionalized. Vincent was always down on his luck for his entire life.
Despite his mental health problems, from which he suffered for many years, Van Gogh left many inspiring works, which shaped modern art.
Not merely shaped modern art, but Vincent’s art is actually more synonymous with fine art. His work has been celebrated across the world by those who appreciate his color choices, and his way of capturing the world.
The sad irony is that Vincent, in his own time, was a “nobody”. If only Vincent could have seen into the future.
Vincent is known for cutting his own ear off, and as a poster boy for the tortured artist.
Poster boy couldn’t be more literal in this case. Vincent and his hacked off ear, have appeared now on countless posters. Many of his other posters feature views he painted while his mental state was crumbling. At that time, Vincent was institutionalized at the Saint-Paul Asylum, in St-Remy de Provence, near Arles, in Southern France.
Here’s a video tour…
In fact, part of the journey of this blog article is to trace the interesting path from a mentally unwell person, dying alone in an asylum, to being on posters in peoples’ homes and on sketchbooks around the world.
These days, everyone recognizes his brushstrokes and the way he depicts the light in the sky, pastoral scenes, and faces. It is as distinct to many of us now, just like a signature. The man behind these strokes only became known in this way after his death.
But let’s travel back to his beginning…
Vincent van Gogh was born on 30th March 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. He grew up in a middle-class family and got interested in painting at an early age at his mother’s suggestion.
When Vincent was growing up, he was a serious and calm person and after he became an adult, he wasn‘t sure which path he should choose.
In 1869 his uncle obtained a job position for him as an art dealer at Goupil & Cie in London, England.
Vincent kept a close relationship with his brother Theo, by frequently writing letters to each other. Theo’s wife, being privy to all the correspondence between the two brothers, described Vincent’s years in London, working as an art dealer, as the best in his life.
He was good at his job and it brought him so much happiness. Unfortunately for Vincent, happiness was a fleeting state of mind as he suffered various mental health issues from an early age which always dragged him down.
Van Gogh‘s father was a minister of a Dutch Reformed Church, so religion had always played a special role in his life. At one point, as a young student, Vincent tried to pass the exam for theological studies at the University of Amsterdam. When he failed to pas the exam, Vincent was determined to seek out his path in life.
Becoming a painter
As he continued on his path of self discovery, never once did he stop sketching and painting those important images that surrounded him….still life and farm life.
While Vincent continually doubted himself as an artist, his brother Theo was the one, who encouraged Vincent to keep painting and become a professional artist.
When he moved from his parents home in Etten to the Hague, his cousin Anton Mauve gave him his first professional drawing lessons in which Van Gogh learned about perspective, and how to apply paint in watercolor and oils.
With his basic knowledge of painting, Vincent came back to his parents’ home in December 1883, where he could practice by painting ‘peasant life’.
One of his known early works is called “Potato Eaters“, which consists of dark colors, and illustrates a typical family of the 19th century, eating dinner.
In Vincent‘s letters to his brother Theo, he explained that the idea of showing peasant‘s hard work by painting their bony hands was more important than drawing everything according to art rules.
This thought of his shows that, Van Gogh from the beginning of his career decided not to be a traditional painter and create only according his own perspective and imagination.
The Path From Unknown to World Famous
Since Vincent‘s brother, Theo was living in Paris at the end of the 19th century, the painter used to spend some time there.
At that time, Paris was an important centre of art for painters in Europe. Surrounded by modernists, Vincent honed his style one step at a time. More color was introduced.
In 1888, Van Gogh moved to the city of Arles, in the south of France, where his style became more and more free and expressive.
He painted local landscapes of yellow fields and beaches, when french painter Paul Gauguin joined him. They started to live and create together.
They painted each other‘s portraits, talked about painting and art very passionately.
From 1888 until Vincent’s death in 1890, he created his best works of art. It also marks an incident, which is well known and inseparable from his personality. During one of the discussions with Gauguin, Vincent injured himself and cut his ear.
After this incident with his brother, Theo knew clearly, that Vincent struggled with mental illness and for some time he needed to break with painting, and pay attention to his health.
His Last Year
Things went downhill quickly. After the ear incident, Vincent was kept at the Psychiatric Hospital in Saint Rémy.
During this time, his brother Theo married Johanna Bonger in Amsterdam, who gave birth to a boy, who was named after his uncle Vincent.
Vincent was happy for his brother and decided to give him a painting as a gift. Unfortunately, he didn‘t know then, that his painting “Almond Blossom” would become one of his most beautiful and well-known works.
It was interesting that Van Gogh was very ill at that time, but the painting was bright and peaceful, which reflects the relationship he had with his brother Theo.
In early 1890, Theo was still working as an art seller in Paris when at the exhibition in Brussels, he brought six of Vincent‘s works, including “The Red Vineyard“, which was sold.
More importantly, that exhibition was official appreciation from people, including Paul Gauguin, who was impressed by Van Gogh‘s skills.
Regardless of this recognition and the public‘s positive reactions to his paintings, Vincent still struggled mentally, and couldn’t find peace within himself.
Vincent van Gogh shot himself on the 27th of July and died from injuries on 29th in 1890.
Morbidly ironic is that even today the gun that he used is famous…
Vincent Van Gogh was looking for his path in life, and faced many challenges. Instead of giving up, he never stopped creating beautiful art. Van Gogh’s style became well known all around the world and brought joy to the art lovers everywhere.
Vincent van Gogh’s tragic life still resonates today with many mentally ill people, regardless of how happy they seem, or how much people try to help them.
Vincent van Gogh was a passionate man and a very talented painter. He was able to capture the world in a unique way, even though his life was tragically ending.
His brother Theo died only 6 months after Vincent from syphilis.
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