Vincent van Gogh, in full Vincent Willem van Gogh, (born March 30, 1853, Zundert, Netherlands—died July 29, 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, France), Dutch painter, generally considered the greatest after Rembrandt van Rijn, and one of the greatest of the Post-Impressionists. The striking colour, emphatic brushwork, and contoured forms of his work powerfully influenced the current of Expressionism in modern art. Van Gogh’s art became astoundingly popular after his death, especially in the late 20th century, when his work sold for record-breaking sums at auctions around the world and was featured in blockbuster touring exhibitions. In part because of his extensive published letters, van Gogh has also been mythologized in the popular imagination as the quintessential tortured artist.

The exact sequence of events which led to Van Gogh's mutilation of his ear is not known. Gauguin stated, fifteen years later, that the night followed several instances of physically threatening behaviour.[138] Their relationship was complex, and Theo may have owed money to Gauguin, who was suspicious that the brothers were exploiting him financially.[139] It seems likely that Van Gogh had realised that Gauguin was planning to leave.[139] The following days saw heavy rain, leading to the two men being shut in the Yellow House.[140] Gauguin reported that Van Gogh followed when Gauguin left the house for a walk, and "rushed towards me, an open razor in his hand".[140] This account is uncorroborated;[141] Gauguin was almost certainly absent from the Yellow House that night, most likely in a hotel.[140]


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Fifteen canvases depict cypresses, a tree he became fascinated with in Arles.[246] He brought life to the trees, which were traditionally seen as emblematic of death.[214] The series of cypresses he began in Arles featured the trees in the distance, as windbreaks in fields; when he was at Saint-Rémy he brought them to the foreground.[247] Vincent wrote to Theo in May 1889: "Cypresses still preoccupy me, I should like to do something with them like my canvases of sunflowers"; he went on to say, "They are beautiful in line and proportion like an Egyptian obelisk."[248]
Van Gogh returned home a fortnight later and resumed painting, producing a mirror-image Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe, several still lifes, and La Berceuse (Woman Rocking a Cradle; Augustine-Alix Pellicot Roulin, 1851–1930). Several weeks later, he again showed symptoms of mental disturbance severe enough to cause him to be sent back to the hospital. At the end of April 1889, fearful of losing his renewed capacity for work, which he regarded as a guarantee of his sanity, he asked to be temporarily shut up in the asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in order to be under medical supervision.
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.[42] Van Gogh prepared for the University of Amsterdam theology entrance examination;[43] 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.[44]
Van Gogh entered the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum on 8 May 1889, accompanied by his carer, Frédéric Salles, a Protestant clergyman. Saint-Paul was a former monastery in Saint-Rémy, located less than 30 kilometres (19 mi) from Arles, and was run by a former naval doctor, Théophile Peyron. Van Gogh had two cells with barred windows, one of which he used as a studio.[162] The clinic and its garden became the main subjects of his paintings. He made several studies of the hospital's interiors, such as Vestibule of the Asylum and Saint-Rémy (September 1889). Some of his works from this time are characterised by swirls, such as The Starry Night. He was allowed short supervised walks, during which time he painted cypresses and olive trees, including Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background 1889, Cypresses 1889, Cornfield with Cypresses (1889), Country road in Provence by Night (1890). In September 1889 he produced two further versions of Bedroom in Arles.[163]
Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor when, in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy. After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet. His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died from his injuries two days later.

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.

The most comprehensive primary source on Van Gogh is the correspondence between him and his younger brother, Theo. Their lifelong friendship, and most of what is known of Vincent's thoughts and theories of art, are recorded in the hundreds of letters they exchanged from 1872 until 1890.[7] Theo van Gogh was an art dealer and provided his brother with financial and emotional support, and access to influential people on the contemporary art scene.[8]


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]

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]
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The most comprehensive primary source on Van Gogh is the correspondence between him and his younger brother, Theo. Their lifelong friendship, and most of what is known of Vincent's thoughts and theories of art, are recorded in the hundreds of letters they exchanged from 1872 until 1890.[7] Theo van Gogh was an art dealer and provided his brother with financial and emotional support, and access to influential people on the contemporary art scene.[8]
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.[269] Important group exhibitions took place with the Sonderbund artists in Cologne in 1912, the Armory Show, New York in 1913, and Berlin in 1914.[273] Henk Bremmer was instrumental in teaching and talking about Van Gogh,[274] and introduced Helene Kröller-Müller to Van Gogh's art; she became an avid collector of his work.[275] The early figures in German Expressionism such as Emil Nolde acknowledged a debt to Van Gogh's work.[276] Bremmer assisted Jacob Baart de la Faille, whose catalogue raisonné L'Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh appeared in 1928.[277][note 15]
The portrayals of the Arles landscape are informed by Van Gogh's Dutch upbringing; the patchworks of fields and avenues appear flat and lacking perspective, but excel in their use of colour.[117] His new-found appreciation is seen in the range and scope of his work. In March 1888 he painted landscapes using a gridded "perspective frame"; three of the works were shown at the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. In April, he was visited by the American artist Dodge MacKnight, who was living nearby at Fontvieille.[118][119] On 1 May 1888, for 15 francs per month, he signed a lease for the eastern wing of the Yellow House at 2 place Lamartine. The rooms were unfurnished and had been uninhabited for months.[120]
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