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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".[6] 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.
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's stylistic developments are usually linked to the periods he spent living in different places across Europe. He was inclined to immerse himself in local cultures and lighting conditions, although he maintained a highly individual visual outlook throughout. His evolution as an artist was slow, and he was aware of his painterly limitations. He moved home often, perhaps to expose himself to new visual stimuli, and through exposure develop his technical skill.[224] Art historian Melissa McQuillan believes the moves also reflect later stylistic changes, and that Van Gogh used the moves to avoid conflict, and as a coping mechanism for when the idealistic artist was faced with the realities of his then current situation.[225]

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]

Van Gogh had no recollection of the event, suggesting that he may have suffered an acute mental breakdown.[147] The hospital diagnosis was "acute mania with generalised delirium",[148] and within a few days the local police ordered that he be placed in hospital care.[149][150] Gauguin immediately notified Theo, who on 24 December had proposed marriage to his old friend Andries Bonger's sister Johanna.[151] That evening Theo rushed to the station to board a night train to Arles. He arrived on Christmas Day and comforted Vincent, who seemed to be semi-lucid. That evening he left Arles for the return trip to Paris.[152]
By March 1882, Mauve appears to have gone cold towards Van Gogh, and stopped replying to his letters.[72] He had learned of Van Gogh's new domestic arrangement with an alcoholic prostitute, Clasina Maria "Sien" Hoornik (1850–1904), and her young daughter.[73] Van Gogh had met Sien towards the end of January 1882, when she had a five-year-old daughter and was pregnant. She had previously borne two children who died, but Van Gogh was unaware of this;[74] on 2 July, she gave birth to a baby boy, Willem.[75] When Van Gogh's father discovered the details of their relationship, he put pressure on his son to abandon Sien and her two children. Vincent at first defied him,[76] and considered moving the family out of the city, but in late 1883, he left Sien and the children.[77]
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]
Many of the late paintings are sombre but essentially optimistic and, right up to the time of Van Gogh's death, reflect his desire to return to lucid mental health. Yet some of his final works reflect his deepening concerns.[257][258] Writing in July 1890, from Auvers, Van Gogh said that he had become absorbed "in the immense plain against the hills, boundless as the sea, delicate yellow".[181]
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]
In 1892 Émile Bernard organised a small solo show of Van Gogh's paintings in Paris, and Julien Tanguy exhibited his Van Gogh paintings with several consigned from Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. In April 1894 the Durand-Rue Gallery in Paris agreed to take 10 paintings on consignment from Van Gogh's estate.[269] In 1896, the Fauvist painter Henri Matisse, then an unknown art student, visited John Peter Russell on Belle Île off Brittany.[270][271] Russell had been a close friend of Van Gogh; he introduced Matisse to the Dutchman's work, and gave him a Van Gogh drawing. Influenced by Van Gogh, Matisse abandoned his earth-coloured palette for bright colours.[271][272]
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