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  Vincent Van Gogh - Biography Of A Tormented Dutch Artist

The whole of the painted works of Vincent Van Gogh - over 800 canvases - were produced in the very short time span of only 8 years. Indeed his total output of over 2000 drawings and paintings originate from the years 1880-1890. Alongside this runs his published correspondence of 800 letters, mainly to his brother Theo, and it is through his letters that we learn much about the tormented spirit of the eccentric genius who was Vincent Van Gogh. They reveal how, having been unable to enter the ministry of the church, he gradually became taken over by his work, in search of the ultimate 'truth' and feeling "the positive consciousness of the fact that art is something greater and higher than our own adroitness or accomplishments or knowledge".

This belief led Van Gogh to a great modesty and he used to sign himself, if at all, only "Vincent", always knowing that his life on earth would be very short. The parish priest of Auvers-sur-Oise even called him cursed and refused to provide his hearse for his funeral!

His career in the art world began in 1869 when, on the recommendation of his uncle, a founder and shareholder, he was employed by the Goupil & Co art gallery as a clerk in their Hague office. Theo joined the Brussels office in 1873. Being transferred to London to complete his training, he fell in love with Eugenie, the daughter of his landlady, but was rejected. This led him to a period of great depression, so much so that he could not attend to his duties effectively and he was transferred to Paris, where he lived in a small room in Montmatre. He was forced to resign in 1876 and immediately returned to England.

Vincent's emotional turmoil did however bear artistic fruits in the form of a remarkable gift of perception - seeing powerfully what most others did not observe at all - "sad but always cheerful" he described himself and he turned to the religious scriptures for solace, secretly harboring the ambition to become a clergyman like his father. However, he did manage to find employment in Ramsgate, on the south coast, where he tough French, spelling and arithmetic in a small school. From there he found employment as assistant to the Methodist preacher Reverend Jones at Isleworth, where he came into close contact with the great squalor and poverty of his parishioners, inspiring him to a desire to live in the service of the most destitute. However, returning home to Holland for Christmas, his parents managed to talk him out of this penniless existence and again his uncle found him a job with a bookseller in Dordrecht.

Unfulfilled in this work, Vincent spent most of his time translating biblical passages into English, French and German, and his free time in the depths of the countryside where he felt at peace. His plan was to study theology and he confided in his brother: "I suppose that for a 'sower of God's words', as I hope to be, as well as for a sower of the seed in the fields, each day will bring enough of its own evil, and the earth will produce many thorns and thistles". The image of the sower was to become a recurring theme in his work.

His father finally agreed to let him follow his religious calling and sent him to Amsterdam to study for the entrance examinations to the University Theology course which, after 15 months of study, he failed, finding the work too arid, preferring to contemplate the countryside and drawing. But the plan was not altogether abandoned and he went to Laeken, near Brussels, to attend an Evangelical training school. However, he was again refused, being considered too impulsive. Not daunted by this, his thoughts returned to the poverty of the London suburbs and his mission to preach in the spiritual desert.

So Vincent set off for Borinage in Belgium, to live among the miners and, being refused a teaching job at the school, settled in the village of Paturages where he taught the Bible and cared for the miners at his own expense. With his father's help he was eventually appointed lay preacher in Wasmes. His great charity at this time, his life often being compared to that of St Francis of Assisi, with such actions as giving up his bed to a poor person and sleeping on the floor, soon brought him into conflict with the established Church, which was outraged by his conduct and he was forced to resign! He continued his work for a while at Cuesmes but increasingly turned to drawing.

In the summer of 1880, at the age of 27, he decided to devote himself entirely to drawing and became a full-time artist. Supported financially by Theo he went to study at the Academy des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.

Source: - Free Articles Directory

About the Author

You can read more from the biography of Vincent Van Gogh at plus a host of other artist biographies by Dr Bianca Tavares at


  The Life And Works Of Vincent Van Gogh
By David Sasson

Perhaps the most prolific post-impressionist painter of all time, Vincent van Gogh gave us his mind, his heart, his soul, and, most notably, his ear. Van Gogh paintings are probably better known generally than those of any other painter in history. His masterpieces, such as Starry Night and Sunflowers, have graced art lovers' walls for nearly 150 years.

Born in 1853, van Gogh was the son of a Dutch Protestant minister. Early in his life, he possessed a moody temperament that would later haunt him in his efforts to become a successful artist. His brief and turbulent life epitomizes the mad genius legend. Rejected by the women he loved because of his difficult and contradictory personality, his few friendships usually ended in bitter arguments.

Strangely, van Gogh's life had very little to do with painting. By the age of 27 he had been a salesman in an art gallery, a French tutor, a theological student and an evangelical minister. It was not until 10 years before his death that he decided to pick up a brush. His early work, the Dutch period of 1880-85, consists of dark greenish-brown, heavily painted studies of peasants and miners. By 1888, after working under Pisarro, van Gogh began experimenting with a brighter range of colors that are characteristic of many of his later works.

In 1888, in ill health, van Gogh moved to Arles with Gauguin for a brief period for release from Paris. At Arles, fraught with internal tension, van Gogh mutilated his left ear in the course of his first attack of dementia. His paintings from this period include the incomparable series of sunflowers: Two Sunflowers, Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, Four Cut Sunflowers and Sunflowers.

Dr. Jan Hulsker, one of the world's foremost scholars of Vincent van Gogh, suggests that the sunflower series "perhaps more than any other of his paintings, have made him known throughout the world. They are often the only works with which he is identified." In recent years a great deal of attention has been devoted to the authenticity of some of the sunflower paintings (namely, the Yasuda version). Most experts, however, have come to the conclusion that the Yasuda work is genuine. Unfortunately the arguments about authenticity have detracted from more critical and analytical studies of the works themselves, and detailed critical commentary of the sunflower series is surprisingly difficult to find. Overall, Jan Hulsker's observation of the sunflower series truly mirrors Vincent's own belief that these works would indeed prove to be those for which Vincent is best beloved. Van Gogh once said in a letter to his brother, Theo, in 1889, "You may know that the peony is Jeannin's, the hollyhock belongs to Quost, but the sunflower is mine in a way."

Vincent van Gogh's time in Arles, France was a pivotal point in his life, and many of his most renowned works originated there. After years of study and struggle he moved to the south of France in an attempt to further explore his art. Surprisingly, during the period in which Vincent was at his most productive, he was alone. Called "fou-rou" (crazy red-head) by many of the townspeople of Arles, Vincent was often viewed with suspicion and scorn. A number of Vincent's letters to his brother, Theo, reflect his isolation and his loneliness.

And yet one family welcomed Vincent and encouraged his work. In many respects, the members of the Roulin family were Vincent's only friends in Arles. Always challenged to find willing subjects for his portraits, Vincent found the Roulins to be extremely accommodating and patient. In total, Van Gogh painted or sketched 25 works of the Roulin family, including one of Augustine Roulin. Thanks to the kindness shown toward this eccentric and troubled painter by the old postman, Joseph Roulin, and his family, Vincent was able to produce some of his most beloved works.

During Van Gogh's period of illness he was confined first to the Arles hospital, then to the asylum at Saint-Remy, where, in 1889, he painted the swirling, climactic Starry Night. Starry Night is probably Vincent Van Gogh's most famous painting. Instantly recognizable because of its unique style, this work has been the subject of poetry, fiction, CD-ROMs as well as the well known song "Vincent" or "Starry, Starry Night" by Don McLean.

While there's no denying the popularity of Starry Night, it's also interesting to note that there is very little known about Vincent's own feelings toward this work. This is mainly due to the fact that he only mentions it in his letters to Theo twice, and then only in passing. In his correspondence with his brother, Vincent would often discuss specific works in great detail, but not so in the case of Starry Night. Why? It's difficult to say.
Some people have made stylistic comparisons to Vincent's other well-known and equally turbulent Seascape At Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Does the tumultuous style of these works reflect a tortured mind? Or is there something more we can read within the whorls Vincent's raging night sky? This is what makes Starry Night not only Vincent's most famous work, but also one of its most frequently interpreted in terms of its meaning and importance.

Some people have speculated about the eleven stars in the painting. While it's true that Vincent didn't have the same religious fervor in 1889 when he painted the work as he did in his earlier years, there is a possibility that the story of Joseph in the Old Testament may have had an influence on the composition of the work.

'Look, I have had another dream' he said, 'I thought I saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars, bowing to me.'
-Genesis 37:9

Whatever the interpretations or underlying meanings, Starry Night stands out as one of the most important works of art produced in the nineteenth century. After painting Wheatfield with Crows during the last three months of his life in 1890, Van Gogh's work began projecting ominous overtones of distress. Two days later, he shot himself, dying in the arms of his brother shortly after.

Some of Van Gogh's other notable paintings include, The Seine Bridge at Asnieres, Old Man With His Head In His Hands and The Reaper.


About the Author: David Sasson has worked in the wall art industry for over 5 years. He now heads provides hand-made oil reproductions of paintings by master artists. Acquire magnificent recreations of works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet and many others today at

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