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Vincent van Gogh


Autoportret (1886)
Vincent van Gogh (Properly the "g"'s prononounced like "ch" in Loch, but it is also pronounced 'go' and 'goe') (March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890) was a Dutch painter.

Born in Zundert, The Netherlands, he died in Auvers-sur-Oise[?], near Paris, France.

He is generally considered the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt, though he sold only one painting during his lifetime: The Red Vineyard[?] (1888). The painting is now on display in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, Russia. Van Gogh produced all of his work during a period of only 10 years before he succumbed to mental illness and committed suicide. His fame grew rapidly after his death especially following a showing of 71 of van Gogh's paintings in Paris on March 17, 1901 (11 years after his death).

Van Gogh's influence on expressionism, fauvism and early abstraction was enormous, and can be seen in many other aspects of 20th-century art. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is dedicated to Van Gogh's work and that of his contemporaries. The Kröller-Müller Museum[?] in Otterlo (also in The Netherlands), has a considerable collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings as well.

Several paintings by Van Gogh rank among the most expensive paintings in the world. On March 30, 1987 Van Gogh's painting Irises was sold for a record $53.9 million at Southeby's, New York. On May 15, 1990 his Portrait of Doctor Gachet was sold for $82.5 million at Christie's, thus establishing a new price record (see also List of most expensive paintings).

His Life

Vincent's father was a protestant minister, a profession that Vincent found appealing and to which he would be drawn to a certain extent later in his life. At age 16 Vincent started to work at art brokery Goupil & Co. in The Hague in The Netherlands. His four years younger brother Theo[?], with whom Vincent cherished a life long friendship, would join the company later. This friendship is amply documented in a vast amount of letters they sent each other. These letters have been preserved to this date. They provide a lot of insight into the life of the painter. Theo would support Vincent financially throughout his life.

In 1876 Vincent, 23 years old, left Goupil and began studying theology for four years. His ambition to become a priest was never fulfilled. He did however preach as a layman in Belgium in a poor region known as the Borinage[?], where mining was a major source of income. During this period he started to produce charcoal sketches. Ca. 800 paintings and ca. 850 drawings would follow.

For a brief period Vincent took paintings lessons from Anton Mauve[?] (1838-1888), at The Hague. Although Vicent and Anton soon split over divergence of artistic views, influences of the The Hague School of painting would remain in Vincents work, notably in the way he played with light and in the looseness of his brush strokes. However his usage of colours, favouring dark tones, set him apart from his teacher.


The Potato Eaters (1885)

Van Gogh focussed on painting peasants and rural scenes. He moved to Dutch province Drenthe, later to Nuenen, North Brabant, also in The Netherlands. Here he painted in 1885 The Potato Eaters (Dutch Aardappeleters, now in The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam).

In the winter of 1885-1886 Van Gogh attended the art academy of Antwerp, Belgium. This proved a disappointment as he was dismissed after a few months by Professor Eugène Siberdt. Van Gogh did however get in touch with Japanese art during this period, which he started to collect eagerly. He admired its bright colours, use of canvas space and the role lines played in the picture. These impressions would influence him strongly. Van Gogh made some painting in Japanese style. Also some of the portraits he painted are set against a background which shows Japanese art.


Sunflowers
In spring 1886 Van Gogh went to Paris, where he moved in with his brother Theo. Now he did another important discovery: impressionism. He liked its use of light and colour, more than its lack of social engagement (as he saw it). Especially the technique known as pointillism (where many small dots are applied to the canvas that blend into rich colours only in the eye of the beholder, seeing it from a distance) made its mark on Van Goghs own style. It should be noted that Van Gogh was regarded as a post-impressionist, rather than an impressionist.


Cafe Terrace at Night (1888)

In 1888, when city life and living with his brothers proved too much, Van Gogh left Paris and went to Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, where he hoped to found an art colony. He did in fact invite Paul Gauguin, whose simplified colour schemes and forms (known as synthetism[?]) attracted him. The admiration came from both sides. However their encounter ended in a quarrel. Soon after or during the end of the visit Van Gogh cut of one of his own ears. Several theories exists for the reasons why he did this.

Van Gogh now exchanged painting dots for small stripes. In 1889 on his own request Van Gogh was admitted to the psychiatric center at Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy de Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. During his stay here the clinic and its garden became his main subject. Pencil strokes changed again, now into spiral curves.

In May 1890 Vincent left the clinic and went to physician Gachet, in Auvers-sur-Oise. His depression aggravated. Van Gogh commited suicide on July 29 of that same year.

It would not take long before his fame grew higher and higher. Large exhibitions were organised soon: Paris 1901, Amsterdam 1905, Cologne 1912, New York 1913 and Berlin 1914.

Influences

(see also above) Contemporary Dutch artists



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