Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion and spent time as a Protestant missionary in southern Belgium. He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881, having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother Theo supported him financially, and the two kept up a long correspondence by letter. His early works, mostly still lifes and depictions of peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he met members of the avant-garde, including Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in the south of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include series of olive trees, wheat fields and sunflowers.

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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]
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]

He moved to Antwerp that November, and rented a room above a paint dealer's shop in the rue des Images (Lange Beeldekensstraat).[91] He lived in poverty and ate poorly, preferring to spend the money Theo sent on painting materials and models. Bread, coffee and tobacco became his staple diet. In February 1886 he wrote to Theo that he could only remember eating six hot meals since the previous May. His teeth became loose and painful.[92] In Antwerp he applied himself to the study of colour theory and spent time in museums—particularly studying the work of Peter Paul Rubens—and broadened his palette to include carmine, cobalt blue and emerald green. Van Gogh bought Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts in the docklands, later incorporating elements of their style into the background of some of his paintings.[93] He was drinking heavily again,[94] and was hospitalised between February and March 1886,[95] when he was possibly also treated for syphilis.[96][note 6]


In August 1882 Theo gave Vincent money to buy materials for working en plein air. Vincent wrote that he could now "go on painting with new vigour".[202] From early 1883 he worked on multi-figure compositions. He had some of them photographed, but when his brother remarked that they lacked liveliness and freshness, he destroyed them and turned to oil painting. Van Gogh turned to well-known Hague School artists like Weissenbruch and Blommers, and received technical advice from them, as well as from painters like De Bock and Van der Weele, both of the Hague School's second generation.[203] When he moved to Nuenen after the period in Drenthe he began several large paintings but destroyed most of them. The Potato Eaters and its companion pieces are the only ones to have survived.[203] Following a visit to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh wrote of his admiration for the quick, economical brushwork of the Dutch Masters, especially Rembrandt and Frans Hals.[204][note 12] He was aware that many of his faults were due to lack of experience and technical expertise,[203] so in November 1885 he travelled to Antwerp and later Paris to learn and develop his skills.[205]
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.[8] 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.[14] There is a gap in the record when he lived in Paris as the brothers lived together and had no need to correspond.[15]
Van Dyke took a more dramatic turn in the 1990s. He starred in the popular crime drama Diagnosis Murder alongside his real-life son, Barry Van Dyke. Debuting in 1993, the series featured Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a medical professional who helped the police solve crimes. The series ended in 2001, but Van Dyke didn't stay away from the small screen for long. He played another amateur detective in a series of TV movies, beginning with 2006's Murder 101. That same year, the actor appeared in the Ben Stiller comedy Night at the Museum.
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.
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.
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