Vincent Van Gogh
“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Regarded today as one of the most famous Post-Impressionist painters, Vincent Van Gogh was born 1853 in the southern part of the Netherlands. As a young man, he worked briefly as an art dealer and a teacher before following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a Protestant missionary. However, he often suffered from depression, and didn’t settle in any of these jobs.
Van Gogh took up painting when he was 27. He soon moved to Paris where he joined a loose group of artists, known as the ‘avant-garde’, who were known for being experimental. His brother, Theo, offered emotional and financial support and this allowed Vincent to devote himself entirely to making art. The two would exchange many letters and it was Theo who introduced Vincent to other artists, including the famous Paul Gauguin.
Van Gogh was overjoyed when Gauguin moved into his house in Arles, a city in the south of France, in 1888. It was during this period that the artist worked on two series of still-life paintings called Sunflowers. Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers are extraordinarily vivid and emotional. He used a range of yellows and deep oranges to convey the vibrant life of the flowers and also their decay.
Although the pair did paint together, they also argued incessantly, and Van Gogh was very anxious that his friend might leave. After one particularly painful argument, Vincent took a razor and cut off a part of his own ear. Van Gogh painted ‘Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear’ (1889) when he was recovering from the incident.
For the rest of his life, Van Gogh suffered from great mental anguish and hallucinations, which led many people in Arles to consider him a madman. In 1889, he shuffled in and out of psychiatric hospitals, alternating between periods of acute depression and passionate artistic activity. The intense colours he used in his artworks reflect this dual state of anguish and joy and are perhaps represented best in his most famous work ‘The Starry Night’ which he painted in 1889 while staying in an asylum.
In 1890, at just 37 years old, Van Gogh died from a self-inflicted revolver wound. In a brief period of ten years, this troubled artist had completed more than 2,100 works, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, and sketches!
During his life, he had sold only one painting. However, other artists and his brother Theo promoted his work, and today, Vincent van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen. He is the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt and his paintings rank among the most expensive in the world. One of those deceptively simple sunflower paintings recently sold for $39.9 million at auction and ‘Irises’ sold for a staggering $53.9 million!