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About Vincent van Gogh

Self-PortraitGogh, Vincent Willem van (1853-1890), Dutch painter, whose work represents the archetype of expressionism, the idea of emotional spontaneity in painting. He was born in Groot-Zundert. His first paintings of peasants, dark and somber, sometimes crude, demonstrate van Gogh's desire to express his vision of the misery and poverty of humanity.

His evolution from an inept but impassioned novice into a truly original master was remarkably rapid: all the works which you will see here were produced in the space of just ten years. Van Gogh himself provided a moving account of his artisitc revolution in the letters he wrote to his family and friends, in particular to his brother Theo. Many of these have survived and they give us valuable information about what he read, saw and thought.

As a painter, he was largely self-taught. With the help of text books, a number of lessons at the art academies of Brussels and Antwerp, visits to museums and advice from artist-friends, he became familiar with traditional practices. His introduction to modern French art movement encouraged him to experiment. As years went by he developed his own, highly distinctive style of painting, using expressive brushstrokes and vivid colours, which has since inspired many generations of artists.

"This man will become crazy or will go far beyond our imagination and leave us behind him." These words were said by the famous artist Camille Pissarro to his friends about Vincent van Gogh when he tried to find a buyer for his Vincent's works.

His uncle was a partner in the international firm of picture dealers Goupil and Co. and in 1869 van Gogh went to work in the branch at The Hague. In 1873 he was sent to the London branch and fell unsuccessfully in love with the daughter of the landlady. This was the first of several disastrous attempts to find happiness with a woman, and his unrequited passion affected him so badly that he was dismissed from his job.

He returned to England in 1876 as an unpaid assistant at a school, and his experience of urban squalor awakened a religious zeal and a longing to serve his fellow men. His father was a Protestant pastor, and van Gogh first trained for the ministry, but he abandoned his studies in 1878 and went to work as a lay preacher among the impoverished miners of the grim Borinage district in Belgium. In his zeal he gave away his own worldly goods to the poor and was dismissed for his literal interpretation of Christ's teaching.

He remained in the Borinage, suffering acute poverty and a spiritual crisis, until 1880, when he found that art was his vocation and the means by which he could bring consolation to humanity.

Starry Night [JH1731]In 1886 van Gogh went to Paris to live with his brother, Theo van Gogh, an art dealer. Influenced by the work of the impressionists (See Impressionism) and by the work of Japanese printmakers, he also adopted the brilliant hues found in the paintings of French artists Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat. In 1888 van Gogh moved to Provence in southern France, where he painted scenes of nature and life characteristic of the region. He also began to use the swirling brush strokes and intense yellows, greens, and blues associated with such works as Starry Night (1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York City).

From this time he worked at his new `mission' with single-minded frenzy, and although he often suffered from extreme poverty and undernourishment, his output in the ten remaining years of his life was prodigious: about 870 paintings and about 1300 drawings/sketches.Crows in the Wheat Fields [JH2117]

A dispute with French painter Paul Gauguin resulted in van Gogh cutting off part of his own ear. Under subsequent medical care, van Gogh painted between repeated spells of madness. Just after completing his ominous Crows in the Wheat fields (1890, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, Netherlands), he committed suicide.

Don't forget to have a look at the Van Gogh Museum site