Van Gogh stayed within what he called the "guise of reality",[218] and was critical of overly stylised works.[219] He wrote afterwards that the abstraction of Starry Night had gone too far and that reality had "receded too far in the background".[219] Hughes describes it as a moment of extreme visionary ecstasy: the stars are in a great whirl, reminiscent of Hokusai's Great Wave, the movement in the heaven above is reflected by the movement of the cypress on the earth below, and the painter's vision is "translated into a thick, emphatic plasma of paint".[220]
Poverty may have pushed Sien back into prostitution; the home became less happy and Van Gogh may have felt family life was irreconcilable with his artistic development. Sien gave her daughter to her mother, and baby Willem to her brother.[78] Willem remembered visiting Rotterdam when he was about 12, when an uncle tried to persuade Sien to marry to legitimise the child.[79] He believed Van Gogh was his father, but the timing of his birth makes this unlikely.[80] Sien drowned herself in the River Scheldt in 1904.[81]
They contain a wide array of physiognomical representations.[230] Van Gogh's mental and physical condition is usually apparent; he may appear unkempt, unshaven or with a neglected beard, with deeply sunken eyes, a weak jaw, or having lost teeth. Some show him with full lips, a long face or prominent skull, or sharpened, alert features. His hair may be the usual red, or at times ash coloured.[230]
Van Gogh learned about Fernand Cormon's atelier from Theo.[107] He worked at the studio in April and May 1886,[108] where he frequented the circle of the Australian artist John Peter Russell, who painted his portrait in 1886.[109] Van Gogh also met fellow students Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – who painted a portrait of him in pastel. They met at Julien "Père" Tanguy's paint shop,[108] (which was, at that time, the only place where Paul Cézanne's paintings were displayed). In 1886, two large exhibitions were staged there, showing Pointillism and Neo-impressionism for the first time, and bringing attention to Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Theo kept a stock of Impressionist paintings in his gallery on boulevard Montmartre, but Van Gogh was slow to acknowledge the new developments in art.[110]

After Van Gogh's first exhibitions in the late 1880s, his reputation grew steadily among artists, art critics, dealers and collectors.[262] In 1887 André Antoine hung Van Gogh's alongside works of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, at the Théâtre Libre in Paris; some were acquired by Julien Tanguy.[263] In 1889 his work was described in the journal Le Moderniste Illustré by Albert Aurier as characterised by "fire, intensity, sunshine".[264] Ten paintings were shown at the Société des Artistes Indépendants, in Brussels in January 1890.[265] French president Marie François Sadi Carnot was said to have been impressed by Van Gogh's work.[266]
Van Gogh painted several landscapes with flowers, including roses, lilacs, irises, and sunflowers. Some reflect his interests in the language of colour, and also in Japanese ukiyo-e.[240] There are two series of dying sunflowers. The first was painted in Paris in 1887 and shows flowers lying on the ground. The second set was completed a year later in Arles, and is of bouquets in a vase positioned in early morning light.[241] Both are built from thickly layered paintwork, which, according to the London National Gallery, evoke the "texture of the seed-heads".[242]
There have been numerous debates as to the nature of Van Gogh's illness and its effect on his work, and many retrospective diagnoses have been proposed. The consensus is that Van Gogh had an episodic condition with periods of normal functioning.[195] Perry was the first to suggest bipolar disorder in 1947,[196] and this has been supported by the psychiatrists Hemphill and Blumer.[197][198] Biochemist Wilfred Arnold has countered that the symptoms are more consistent with acute intermittent porphyria, noting that the popular link between bipolar disorder and creativity might be spurious.[195] Temporal lobe epilepsy with bouts of depression has also been suggested.[198] Whatever the diagnosis, his condition was likely worsened by malnutrition, overwork, insomnia and alcohol.[198]
The Flowering Orchards (also the Orchards in Blossom) are among the first groups of work completed after Van Gogh's arrival in Arles in February 1888. The 14 paintings are optimistic, joyous and visually expressive of the burgeoning spring. They are delicately sensitive and unpopulated. He painted swiftly, and although he brought to this series a version of Impressionism, a strong sense of personal style began to emerge during this period. The transience of the blossoming trees, and the passing of the season, seemed to align with his sense of impermanence and belief in a new beginning in Arles. During the blossoming of the trees that spring, he found "a world of motifs that could not have been more Japanese".[252] Vincent wrote to Theo on 21 April 1888 that he had 10 orchards and "one big [painting] of a cherry tree, which I've spoiled".[253]
After Van Gogh's first exhibitions in the late 1880s, his reputation grew steadily among artists, art critics, dealers and collectors.[262] In 1887 André Antoine hung Van Gogh's alongside works of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, at the Théâtre Libre in Paris; some were acquired by Julien Tanguy.[263] In 1889 his work was described in the journal Le Moderniste Illustré by Albert Aurier as characterised by "fire, intensity, sunshine".[264] Ten paintings were shown at the Société des Artistes Indépendants, in Brussels in January 1890.[265] French president Marie François Sadi Carnot was said to have been impressed by Van Gogh's work.[266]
The most comprehensive primary source on Van Gogh is the correspondence between him and his younger brother, Theo. Their lifelong friendship, and most of what is known of Vincent's thoughts and theories of art, are recorded in the hundreds of letters they exchanged from 1872 until 1890.[7] Theo van Gogh was an art dealer and provided his brother with financial and emotional support, and access to influential people on the contemporary art scene.[8]
Van Gogh made several painting excursions during visits to the landscape around Arles. He made paintings of harvests, wheat fields and other rural landmarks of the area, including The Old Mill (1888); a good example of a picturesque structure bordering the wheat fields beyond.[116] At various points, Van Gogh painted the view from his window – at The Hague, Antwerp, and Paris. These works culminated in The Wheat Field series, which depicted the view from his cells in the asylum at Saint-Rémy.[256]

In January 1879 he took up a post as a missionary at Petit-Wasmes[45] in the coal-mining district of Borinage in Belgium. To show support for his impoverished congregation, he gave up his comfortable lodgings at a bakery to a homeless person, and moved to a small hut where he slept on straw.[46] His squalid living conditions did not endear him to church authorities, who dismissed him for "undermining the dignity of the priesthood". He then walked the 75 kilometres (47 mi) to Brussels,[47] returned briefly to Cuesmes in the Borinage, but gave in to pressure from his parents to return home to Etten. He stayed there until around March 1880,[note 3] which caused concern and frustration for his parents. His father was especially frustrated and advised that his son should be committed to the lunatic asylum at Geel.[49][50][note 4]


Absolutely terrible experience! We bought a sectional from here and initially the experience was good. Sasha, the salesperson was great to work with and patient. That quickly changed. The leg on the ottoman was broken so we had to get that fixed. When we went to move a few months later, we noticed the back of the couch was broken (the delivery guys put it against the wall so we had never seen it). We had it serviced and were without that piece for over a week.
The time in Arles became one of Van Gogh's more prolific periods: he completed 200 paintings, and more than 100 drawings and watercolours.[115] He was enchanted by the local landscape and light; his works from this period are rich in yellow, ultramarine and mauve. His paintings include harvests, wheat fields and general rural landmarks from the area, including The Old Mill (1888), a picturesque structure bordering the wheat fields.[116] This was one of seven canvases sent to Pont-Aven on 4 October 1888 in an exchange of works with Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, Charles Laval and others.[116]
Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 into a Dutch Reformed family in Groot-Zundert, in the predominantly Catholic province of North Brabant in the southern Netherlands.[16] He was the oldest surviving child of Theodorus van Gogh, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, and Anna Cornelia Carbentus. Van Gogh was given the name of his grandfather, and of a brother stillborn exactly a year before his birth.[note 2] Vincent was a common name in the Van Gogh family: his grandfather, Vincent (1789–1874), who received a degree in theology at the University of Leiden in 1811, had six sons, three of whom became art dealers. This Vincent may have been named after his own great-uncle, a sculptor (1729–1802).[18]
Van Gogh knew that his approach to painting was individualistic, but he also knew that some tasks are beyond the power of isolated individuals to accomplish. In Paris he had hoped to form a separate Impressionist group with Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others whom he believed had similar aims. He rented and decorated a house in Arles with the intention of persuading them to join him and found a working community called “The Studio of the South.” Gauguin arrived in October 1888, and for two months van Gogh and Gauguin worked together; but, while each influenced the other to some extent, their relations rapidly deteriorated because they had opposing ideas and were temperamentally incompatible.
The piece comes back and looks horrible. The fabric was torn and stapled back together unevenly. We called Art Van to complain and were promised to be contacted by the manager. In the meantime we moved and didn't get a chance to call manager back.  We called back and were told manager would contact us. Nothing. I finally called the manager, Kathy Smith, today and received the worst treatment I've ever experienced from a store. Right away she had a chip on her should and said because it's been 8 months since original purchase, we couldn't get a replacement and basically it wasn't her problem. I wasn't rude and didn't say anything to anger her but she acted like I was trying to steal from her. I explained that if we could not get the piece replaced (which is ridiculous by itself), could we get a decent discount on the purchase of two new pieces? We need to get the reverse pieces for the new house and were hoping after all the inconvenience, that they could work with us since the original piece looks terrible from being serviced.
The portrayals of the Arles landscape are informed by Van Gogh's Dutch upbringing; the patchworks of fields and avenues appear flat and lacking perspective, but excel in their use of colour.[117] His new-found appreciation is seen in the range and scope of his work. In March 1888 he painted landscapes using a gridded "perspective frame"; three of the works were shown at the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. In April, he was visited by the American artist Dodge MacKnight, who was living nearby at Fontvieille.[118][119] On 1 May 1888, for 15 francs per month, he signed a lease for the eastern wing of the Yellow House at 2 place Lamartine. The rooms were unfurnished and had been uninhabited for months.[120]
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