Vincent van Gogh wrote over 800 letters in his lifetime to family and friends the majority of which were to his beloved brother Theo Van Gogh. The letters provide insight to the life of the artist as well as his work. They allow us to know more about his life, how he thought and how he worked than nearly any other artist. In the Letters section, you can learn more about the significance of Vincent van Gogh's letters and find a link to a resource containing Van Gogh's translated letters.
They contain a wide array of physiognomical representations. 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.
In despair of ever being able to overcome his loneliness or be cured, van Gogh shot himself. He did not die immediately. When found wounded in his bed, he allegedly said, “I shot myself.…I only hope I haven’t botched it.” That evening, when interrogated by the police, van Gogh refused to answer questions, saying, “What I have done is nobody else’s business. I am free to do what I like with my own body.”
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. 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).
In Nuenen, Van Gogh focused on painting and drawing. Working outside and very quickly, he completed sketches and paintings of weavers and their cottages. From August 1884, Margot Begemann, a neighbour's daughter ten years his senior, joined him on his forays; she fell in love and he reciprocated, though less enthusiastically. They wanted to marry, but neither side of their families were in favour. Margot was distraught and took an overdose of strychnine, but survived after Van Gogh rushed her to a nearby hospital. On 26 March 1885, his father died of a heart attack.
After seeing the portrait of Adolphe Monticelli at the Galerie Delareybarette, Van Gogh adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack, particularly in paintings such as his Seascape at Saintes-Maries (1888). Two years later, Vincent and Theo paid for the publication of a book on Monticelli paintings, and Vincent bought some of Monticelli's works to add to his collection.
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After much pleading from Van Gogh, Gauguin arrived in Arles on 23 October, and in November the two painted together. Gauguin depicted Van Gogh in his The Painter of Sunflowers; Van Gogh painted pictures from memory, following Gauguin's suggestion. Among these "imaginative" paintings is Memory of the Garden at Etten.[note 8] Their first joint outdoor venture was at the Alyscamps, when they produced the pendants Les Alyscamps. The single painting Gauguin completed during his visit was Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers.
Van Gogh had many influences on his life including his family and friends, other artists such as Paul Gauguin, and his failing mental and physical health. To see how each of these affected his life, please visit the Important Figures, Artistic Influences and Health sections. For information about how Van Gogh's work has impacted our society today, view the Impact on Art, Cultural References, and News sections.
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There are more than 600 letters from Vincent to Theo and around 40 from Theo to Vincent. There are 22 to his sister Wil, 58 to the painter Anthon van Rappard, 22 to Émile Bernard as well as individual letters to Paul Signac, Paul Gauguin and the critic Albert Aurier. Some are illustrated with sketches. Many are undated, but art historians have been able to place most in chronological order. Problems in transcription and dating remain, mainly with those posted from Arles. While there Vincent wrote around 200 letters in Dutch, French and English. There is a gap in the record when he lived in Paris as the brothers lived together and had no need to correspond.
Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime, and was considered a madman and a failure. He became famous after his suicide, and exists in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist "where discourses on madness and creativity converge". His reputation began to grow in the early 20th century as elements of his painting style came to be incorporated by the Fauves and German Expressionists. He attained widespread critical, commercial and popular success over the ensuing decades, and is remembered as an important but tragic painter, whose troubled personality typifies the romantic ideal of the tortured artist. Today, Van Gogh's works are among the world's most expensive paintings to have ever sold at auction, and his legacy is honoured by a museum in his name, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which holds the world's largest collection of his paintings and drawings.
Van Dyke is the recipient of five Primetime Emmys, a Tony, and a Grammy Award, and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995. He received the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor, the SAG Life Achievement Award, in 2013. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard and has also been recognized as a Disney Legend.
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To support his religious conviction and his desire to become a pastor, in 1877 the family sent him to live with his uncle Johannes Stricker, a respected theologian, in Amsterdam. Van Gogh prepared for the University of Amsterdam theology entrance examination; he failed the exam, and left his uncle's house in July 1878. He undertook, but also failed, a three-month course at a Protestant missionary school in Laken, near Brussels.
Van Gogh stayed within what he called the "guise of reality", and was critical of overly stylised works. He wrote afterwards that the abstraction of Starry Night had gone too far and that reality had "receded too far in the background". 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".
Born in Missouri in 1925, Dick Van Dyke is known for his starring role in the musical Bye Bye Birdie (1963), and for his successful television comedy series The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–66). Additionally, he starred in the drama series Diagnosis Murder (1993–2001), has won several Emmy Awards and has performed in a number of films, including Mary Poppins; Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang, Dick Tracy and Night at the Museum.
He incorporated his children and grandchildren into his TV endeavors. Son Barry Van Dyke, grandsons Shane Van Dyke and Carey Van Dyke along with other Van Dyke grandchildren and relatives appeared in various episodes of the long-running series Diagnosis: Murder. Although Stacy Van Dyke was not well known in show business, she made an appearance in the Diagnosis: Murder Christmas episode "Murder in the Family" (season 4) as Carol Sloan Hilton, the estranged daughter of Dr. Mark Sloan.
From 1961 to 1966, Van Dyke starred in the CBS sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which he portrayed a comedy writer named Rob Petrie. Originally the show was supposed to have Carl Reiner as the lead but CBS insisted on recasting and Reiner chose Van Dyke to replace him in the role. Complementing Van Dyke was a veteran cast of comic actors including Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Jerry Paris, Ann Morgan Guilbert, Richard Deacon, and Carl Reiner (as Alan Brady), as well as 23-year-old Mary Tyler Moore, who played Rob's wife Laura Petrie. Van Dyke won three Emmy Awards as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and the series received four Emmy Awards as Outstanding Comedy Series.