"I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream."

1853-1890 Dutch Post Impressionist painter

His work has influenced virtually every visual artist that came after him. In 1869, he worked for a firm of art dealers and at various 'temp' jobs. From 1878 to 1880 he was an evangelist. He worked with a very impoverished people. He made the mistake of giving the food he was issued to the people to whom he was preaching. His supervisors reprimanded him for this. Later he decided he'd rather be an artist.

One of his first great, early influences was Rembrandt van Rijn who provided the early dark palette of colors. He was also influenced by Jean-Francois Millet.

He was very dependent on his brother Theo who gave him moral and financial support for years. It was Theo who bankrolled Vincent's move to Paris in February of 1886. The world is much blessed by the series of letters between Vincent and Theo which give enormous insight into the artist's thinking.

His first attempt at a masterpiece was The Potato Eaters in 1885.

In Paris, he had his first exposure to Impressionist and Post Impressionist painters. He made friends with Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. This was the best part of his life. It was then that he learned the pleasures of L'absinth.

At the end of his year in Paris, he moved away from the community in up to the Provence city of Arles. There he worked in relative isolation. Later he made an arrangement with Paul Gauguin to share a cottage in the south of France. It was Theo who was paying the rent. Among the paintings done during this period were The Night Cafe and The Starry Night which is located in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). During this time, 1888-1889 in Arles he is suspected of suffering from Digoxin Poisoning. This may explain the visualizations in the paintings of his later period.

His work made it to the American shores during the Armory Show 1913 and was subsequently shown at Gallery 291.

Long after he died, in the 1930's, his work was displayed in the infamous Entartete Kunst which was a show intended to delineate what the Nazi's though of as "degenerate art".

There was a large travelling retrospective of his work called Van Gogh's Van Goghs sponsored by the Van Gogh Museum.

Some of his works include:

In his lifetime, he sold exactly one painting. He died at the age of 37. He had produced most of his work in 29 months of frenetic activity. This includes about 800 paintings and about the same number of drawings. In 1990 a painting of the portrait of his friend, Dr Gachet sold for $82.5 Million US dollars.

His work is owned by every major art museum in the world, including:

Related Nodes:


Sources: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gogh/ http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/ http://www.artmuseum.net/vangogh/gateway.asp Last Updated 05.30.04

The artist described above spent most of his life in poverty and haunted by mental illness.
In addition to the hospitalizations mentioned in the Starry, Starry Night node, he was often banished from the places he was working due to his strange behavior

Like many great artists, he was truly out of touch with those around him, for reasons related to both:
1. the kind of paintings he was creating (odd, slightly blurry images of the world, filled with swirling action and vibrant color, compare his use of a color to the dark, muted tones of Rembrandt, the more famous Dutch artist).
2. His real mental illness (likely paranoid schizophrenia due to his reclusive nature, interrupted by serious conflicts with peers, but who's to say, really).

His most celebrated "crazy" act was cutting off his own ear and sending it to a woman he knew. There are a number of theories about this, but the one most widely held is that he had been reading about bullfighters who brought the ears of vanquished cattle to their loves.
In Vincent's mind this was a way to show this woman she had slayed him, literally and figuratively.

Vincent is the poster child for the tortured genius.

About the ear thing. According to the book Lust for Life (ISBN 0452262496) by Irving Stone, van Gogh had a very good reason for cutting of his ear. He had fallen in love with a sixteen year old prostitute. This girl had on several occations told the painter how much she loved his ears. In fact, if he was ever strapped for cash, she would be delighted to have one of them as payment for her services. And this is what happened, according to the book.

A Fictonal Account of the Best Present a French Prostitute has Ever Recieved.

Dec. 23, 1888 Arles, France

The sweat beads condensed on my forehead, another customer finished, another 50 Francs. The air was thick; the heavy cigarette smoke swirled upwards like ribbons. I could hardly see two feet in front of me. Jacques said something about “joier” and lit up another cigarette, reluctantly reaching into his pockets.

Jacques called himself a nouveaux philosopher; he wrote about what is wrong with the world, making all kinds of references to the troubles the ballet dancers and brothel matrons caused our country. I do not know his real name, but when the blood entered his groin he was Jacques, and all morals and inhibitions were suppressed.

Jacques left the room and I was alone, cold, broke. Sometimes I would have a job sitting for the painters down the street in the yellow house. Other times I would stand on the corner and see what new customers I could attract. I grew weary at times, either from overactivity or inactivity. Sex grew monotonous, but I knew when to make noise. I looked around the room; it was dingy, red paint cracking on the wall. The smoke was slowly beginning to clear. A noise.

Irregular footsteps creaked on the floorboards. A seemingly drunk, red haired man staggered into my chamber. “Rachel…” He gasped out. I recognized him immediately as one of the artists down the street. Vincent, I believe. He had painted me several times, never very accurately. I felt sorry for him, because he had never sold anything, and was living off his brother. The man had obviously had too much absinthe today.

Vincent didn’t talk, just stood there in the doorway, trembling, holding his head in his hands. I ran up to him and put my arm around him. “Its time to go home, now,” I said. I would never forget his face that day. His sad, green eyes looked at me like a baby looks at its mother.

Vincent’s next movements were jerky; awkward. His eyes became like that of a monster. He hobbled forward, the ground pulsating with each step. His eyes never left mine, but I could see his hands fluttering, grabbing my hand and forcing his dirty handkerchief onto my sweaty palms. Vincent smiled a toothy grin, but the sadness and madness of his face shone through like sunlight through a window. I was terrified of this man now, this man that grunted like a swine and staggered like a baboon. “Keep this object carefully,” he said to me, then quickly limped out of the room, dripping beads of blood on the furniture. The room was a dizzying cloud of smoke and sweat and blood. I looked down at Vincent’s “present.”

Upon regaining consciousness, I studied this object, a bloody chunk of flesh, reddish brown, partially caked onto the crimson handkerchief. I choked. It was the lower part of his ear. What am I going to do with this? I thought. What is wrong with this man? My hands were trembling and I dropped the ear onto my lap. I shrieked and longed for a never ending supply of Jacques.

Vincent Van Gogh was admitted to a mental institution that morning. He was in and out until his suicide on July 29th, 1889.

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