Vincent Willem van Gogh (Dutch: [ˈvɪnsɛnt ˈʋɪləm vɑŋ ˈɣɔx] (listen);[note 1] 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. However, he was not commercially successful, and his suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.
There was interest from a dealer in Paris early in 1885. Theo asked Vincent if he had paintings ready to exhibit. In May, Van Gogh responded with his first major work, The Potato Eaters, and a series of "peasant character studies" which were the culmination of several years of work. When he complained that Theo was not making enough effort to sell his paintings in Paris, his brother responded that they were too dark, and not in keeping with the bright style of Impressionism. In August his work was publicly exhibited for the first time, in the shop windows of the dealer Leurs in The Hague. One of his young peasant sitters became pregnant in September 1885; Van Gogh was accused of forcing himself upon her, and the village priest forbade parishioners to model for him.
Van Gogh's works are among the world's most expensive paintings. Those sold for over US$100 million (today's equivalent) include Portrait of Dr Gachet, Portrait of Joseph Roulin and Irises. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's version of Wheat Field with Cypresses was acquired in 1993 for US$57 million. In 2015 L'Allée des Alyscamps sold for US$66.3 million at Sotheby's, New York, exceeding its reserve of US$40 million.
In Paris in 1901 a large Van Gogh retrospective was held at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, which excited André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, and contributed to the emergence of Fauvism. Important group exhibitions took place with the Sonderbund artists in Cologne in 1912, the Armory Show, New York in 1913, and Berlin in 1914. Henk Bremmer was instrumental in teaching and talking about Van Gogh, and introduced Helene Kröller-Müller to Van Gogh's art; she became an avid collector of his work. The early figures in German Expressionism such as Emil Nolde acknowledged a debt to Van Gogh's work. Bremmer assisted Jacob Baart de la Faille, whose catalogue raisonné L'Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh appeared in 1928.[note 15]
If you are interested in adding more Van Gogh to your life, the Van Gogh Gallery has plenty to offer. Download Van Gogh images of some of his most famous paintings as wallpaper for your computer, shop for Van Gogh posters or prints, or check out some of the additional resources available including links to Van Gogh exhibitions. If you are a smartphone user then download the free app for any Android or iPhone device and have access to Van Gogh’s famous paintings right from your phone. There are even lesson plans from multidiscipline areas for those interested in educating others about Van Gogh's art and life. If you’d like to enjoy and share your favorite Van Gogh works on social media follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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".
In July 1869 Van Gogh's uncle Cent obtained a position for him at the art dealers Goupil & Cie in The Hague. After completing his training in 1873, he was transferred to Goupil's London branch at Southampton Street, and took lodgings at 87 Hackford Road, Stockwell. This was a happy time for Van Gogh; he was successful at work, and at 20 was earning more than his father. Theo's wife later remarked that this was the best year of Vincent's life. He became infatuated with his landlady's daughter, Eugénie Loyer, but was rejected after confessing his feelings; she was secretly engaged to a former lodger. He grew more isolated, and religiously fervent. His father and uncle arranged a transfer to Paris in 1875, where he became resentful of issues such as the degree to which the firm commodified art, and was dismissed a year later.
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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. 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.
^ Theo and his wife, Gachet and his son, and Signac, who all saw Van Gogh after the bandages were removed, maintained that only the earlobe had been removed. According to Doiteau and Leroy, the diagonal cut removed the lobe and probably a little more. The policeman and Rey both claimed Van Gogh severed the entire outer ear; Rey repeated his account in 1930, writing a note for novelist Irving Stone and including a sketch of the line of the incision.
^ The pronunciation of "Van Gogh" varies in both English and Dutch. Especially in British English it is /ˌvæn ˈɡɒx/ or sometimes /ˌvæn ˈɡɒf/. American dictionaries list /ˌvæn ˈɡoʊ/, with a silent gh, as the most common pronunciation. In the dialect of Holland, it is [ˈvɪnsɛnt fɑŋˈxɔx] (listen), with a voiceless V. He grew up in Brabant, and used Brabant dialect in his writing; if he pronounced his name with a Brabant accent it would be [vɑɲˈʝɔç], with a voiced V and palatalised G and gh. In France, where much of his work was produced, it is [vɑ̃ ɡɔɡᶱ].
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After Van Gogh's first exhibitions in the late 1880s, his reputation grew steadily among artists, art critics, dealers and collectors. 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. In 1889 his work was described in the journal Le Moderniste Illustré by Albert Aurier as characterised by "fire, intensity, sunshine". Ten paintings were shown at the Société des Artistes Indépendants, in Brussels in January 1890. French president Marie François Sadi Carnot was said to have been impressed by Van Gogh's work.
After Van Gogh's death, memorial exhibitions were held in Brussels, Paris, The Hague and Antwerp. His work was shown in several high-profile exhibitions, including six works at Les XX; in 1891 there was a retrospective exhibition in Brussels. In 1892 Octave Mirbeau wrote that Van Gogh's suicide was an "infinitely sadder loss for art ... even though the populace has not crowded to a magnificent funeral, and poor Vincent van Gogh, whose demise means the extinction of a beautiful flame of genius, has gone to his death as obscure and neglected as he lived."
Gogh, Vincent van: Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with Peasant)Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with Peasant), oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh, 1889; in the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 73.66 × 92.07 cm.Photograph by Jenny O'Donnell. Indianapolis Museum of Art, gift of Mrs James W. Fesler in memory of Daniel W. and Elizabeth C. Marmon, 44.74
During the last six or seven months of the year 1889, he has also created at least fifteen paintings of olive trees, a subject which he considered as demanding and compelling. Among these works are Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background (1889), about which in a letter to his brother Van Gogh wrote, "At last I have a landscape with olives".While in Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh spent time outside the asylum, where he painted trees in the olive groves. In these works natural life is rendered as gnarled and arthritic as if a personification of the natural world, which are, according to Hughes, filled with "a continuous field of energy of which nature is a manifestation".
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Penniless and feeling that his faith was destroyed, he sank into despair and withdrew from everyone. “They think I’m a madman,” he told an acquaintance, “because I wanted to be a true Christian. They turned me out like a dog, saying that I was causing a scandal.” It was then that van Gogh began to draw seriously, thereby discovering in 1880 his true vocation as an artist. Van Gogh decided that his mission from then on would be to bring consolation to humanity through art. “I want to give the wretched a brotherly message,” he explained to his brother Theo. “When I sign [my paintings] ‘Vincent,’ it is as one of them.” This realization of his creative powers restored his self-confidence.
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On 27 July 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a 7mm Lefaucheux à broche revolver. There were no witnesses and he died 30 hours after the incident. The shooting may have taken place in the wheat field in which he had been painting, or a local barn. The bullet was deflected by a rib and passed through his chest without doing apparent damage to internal organs – probably stopped by his spine. He was able to walk back to the Auberge Ravoux, where he was attended to by two doctors, but without a surgeon present the bullet could not be removed. The doctors tended to him as best they could, then left him alone in his room, smoking his pipe. The following morning Theo rushed to his brother's side, finding him in good spirits. But within hours Vincent began to fail, suffering from an untreated infection resulting from the wound. He died in the early hours of 29 July. According to Theo, Vincent's last words were: "The sadness will last forever".
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The name of van Gogh was virtually unknown when he killed himself: only one article about him had appeared during his lifetime. He had exhibited a few canvases at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris between 1888 and 1890 and in Brussels in 1890; both salons showed small commemorative groups of his work in 1891. One-man shows of his work did not occur until 1892.
On January 27, 2013, at the age of 87, Van Dyke received the 2013 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. During his acceptance speech, Van Dyke reminisced about his work over the years as an entertainer and stated that his career has "been full of surprises and a lot of fun." He also praised actors working in the industry today, calling them "the greatest generation of actors" and telling them, "You've all lifted the art to another place now." He continued with a rhetorical question for his Hollywood colleagues: "Aren't we lucky to have found a line of work that doesn't require growing up? I love that." Van Dyke is the 49th recipient of the SAG Life Achievement Award, following 2012 honoree Mary Tyler Moore.