Van Gogh himself brought this period to an end. Oppressed by homesickness—he painted souvenirs of Holland—and loneliness, he longed to see Theo and the north once more and arrived in Paris in May 1890. Four days later he went to stay with a homeopathic doctor-artist, Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, a friend of Pissarro and Paul Cézanne, at Auvers-sur-Oise. Back in a village community such as he had not known since Nuenen, four years earlier, van Gogh worked at first enthusiastically; his choice of subjects such as fields of corn, the river valley, peasants’ cottages, the church, and the town hall reflects his spiritual relief. A modification of his style followed: the natural forms in his paintings became less contorted, and in the northern light he adopted cooler, fresh tonalities. His brushwork became broader and more expressive and his vision of nature more lyrical. Everything in these pictures seems to be moving, living. This phase was short, however, and ended in quarrels with Gachet and feelings of guilt at his financial dependence on Theo (now married and with a son) and his inability to succeed.
Van Gogh's mother came from a prosperous family in The Hague,[19] and his father was the youngest son of a minister.[20] The two met when Anna's younger sister, Cornelia, married Theodorus's older brother Vincent (Cent). Van Gogh's parents married in May 1851 and moved to Zundert.[21] His brother Theo was born on 1 May 1857. There was another brother, Cor, and three sisters: Elisabeth, Anna, and Willemina (known as "Wil"). In later life Van Gogh remained in touch only with Willemina and Theo.[22] Van Gogh's mother was a rigid and religious woman who emphasised the importance of family to the point of claustrophobia for those around her.[23] Theodorus's salary was modest, but the Church supplied the family with a house, a maid, two cooks, a gardener, a carriage and horse, and Anna instilled in the children a duty to uphold the family's high social position.[24]
Categories: Vincent van Gogh1853 births1890 deathsDutch male paintersDutch landscape paintersDutch still life paintersFlower artistsPost-impressionist paintersDutch people with disabilitiesDutch ProtestantsPainters who committed suicidePeople from ZundertPeople with borderline personality disorderDutch ChristiansDutch expatriates in BelgiumDutch expatriates in FranceDutch expatriates in the United KingdomRoyal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerp) alumniSuicides by firearm in FrancePeople of MontmartreMale suicidesAcadémie Royale des Beaux-Arts alumni
Van Gogh drew, and painted with watercolours while at school, but only a few examples survive and the authorship of some has been challenged.[199] When he took up art as an adult, he began at an elementary level. In early 1882, his uncle, Cornelis Marinus, owner of a well-known gallery of contemporary art in Amsterdam, asked for drawings of The Hague. Van Gogh's work did not live up to expectations. Marinus offered a second commission, specifying the subject matter in detail, but was again disappointed with the result. Van Gogh persevered; he experimented with lighting in his studio using variable shutters, and with different drawing materials. For more than a year he worked on single figures – highly elaborate studies in black and white,[note 11] which at the time gained him only criticism. Later, they were recognised as early masterpieces.[201]

In April 1876 he returned to England to take unpaid work as a supply teacher in a small boarding school in Ramsgate. When the proprietor moved to Isleworth in Middlesex, Van Gogh went with him.[35][36] The arrangement did not work out and he left to become a Methodist minister's assistant.[37] His parents had meanwhile moved to Etten;[38] in 1876 he returned home at Christmas for six months and took work at a bookshop in Dordrecht. He was unhappy in the position and spent his time doodling or translating passages from the Bible into English, French and German.[39] He immersed himself in religion, and became increasingly pious and monastic.[40] According to his flatmate of the time, Paulus van Görlitz, Van Gogh ate frugally, avoiding meat.[41]
In these series, Van Gogh was not preoccupied by his usual interest in filling his paintings with subjectivity and emotion; rather the two series are intended to display his technical skill and working methods to Gauguin,[134] who was about to visit. The 1888 paintings were created during a rare period of optimism for the artist. Vincent wrote to Theo in August 1888, "I'm painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won't surprise you when it's a question of painting large sunflowers ... If I carry out this plan there'll be a dozen or so panels. The whole thing will therefore be a symphony in blue and yellow. I work on it all these mornings, from sunrise. Because the flowers wilt quickly and it's a matter of doing the whole thing in one go."[243]
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]
He wrote that they represented his "sadness and extreme loneliness", and that the "canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside".[183] Wheatfield with Crows, although not his last oil work, is from July 1890 and Hulsker discusses it as being associated with "melancholy and extreme loneliness".[184] Hulsker identifies seven oil paintings from Auvers that follow the completion of Wheatfield with Crows.[185]
People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down. They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio. I was working with an entire English cast and nobody said a word, not Julie, not anybody said I needed to work on it so I thought I was alright.
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During this period Van Gogh mastered the use of light by subjugating shadows and painting the trees as if they are the source of light – almost in a sacred manner.[252] Early the following year he painted another smaller group of orchards, including View of Arles, Flowering Orchards.[254] Van Gogh was enthralled by the landscape and vegetation of the south of France, and often visited the farm gardens near Arles. In the vivid light of the Mediterranean climate his palette significantly brightened.[255]
Late in November 1881, Van Gogh wrote a letter to Johannes Stricker, one which he described to Theo as an attack.[58] Within days he left for Amsterdam.[59] Kee would not meet him, and her parents wrote that his "persistence is disgusting".[60] In despair, he held his left hand in the flame of a lamp, with the words: "Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame."[60][61] He did not recall the event well, but later assumed that his uncle had blown out the flame. Kee's father made it clear that her refusal should be heeded and that the two would not marry, largely because of Van Gogh's inability to support himself.[62]
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.
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