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Vincent van Gogh

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This is aDutch name; thefamily nameisVan Gogh, notGogh.

Vincent van Gogh
Self-Portrait, 1889
Born / 30 March 1853
Zundert, Netherlands
Died / 29 July 1890(aged37)
Nationality / Dutch
Education / Anton Mauve
Knownfor / Painting,drawing
Notable work / Starry Night,Sunflowers,Bedroom in Arles,Portrait of Dr. Gachet,Sorrow
Movement / Post-Impressionism

Vincent Willem van Gogh(Dutch:[ˈvɪnsɛnt ˈʋɪləm vɑn ˈɣɔx](listen);[note 1]30 March 1853– 29 July 1890) was aDutchpost-Impressionistpainter whose work had far-reaching influence on20th-century art. His paintings includeportraits,self portraits, landscapes, still lifes ofcypresses,wheat fields, andsunflowers. Van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents and spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers before traveling to The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught in England atIsleworthandRamsgate. He drew as a child but did not paint until his late twenties; most of his best-known works were completed during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints.

He was deeply religious as a younger man and aspired to be a pastor. From 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he sketched people from the local community, and in 1885 painted his first major workThe Potato Eaters. His palette then consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later paintings. In March 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered theFrench Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the region's strong sunlight. His paintings grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay inArlesin 1888.

After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness he died aged 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, art historians see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence wrought through illness. His late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art criticRobert Hughes, "longing for concision and grace".[1]



·  1Letters

·  2Biography

o  2.1Early life

o  2.2Etten, Drenthe and The Hague

o  2.3Emerging artist

§  2.3.1Nuenen and Antwerp (1883–1886)

§  2.3.2Paris (1886–1888)

o  2.4Artistic breakthrough and final years

§  2.4.1Move to Arles (1888–1889)

§  2.4.2Gauguin's visit

§  2.4.3Saint-Rémy (May 1889– May 1890)

§  2.4.4Auvers-sur-Oise (May–July 1890)

o  2.5Death

·  3Work

o  3.1Self portraits

o  3.2Portraits

o  3.3Cypresses

o  3.4Flowering Orchards

o  3.5Flowers

o  3.6Wheat fields

·  4Legacy

o  4.1Posthumous fame

o  4.2Influence

·  5Footnotes

·  6References

·  7Bibliography

·  8External links


See also:The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Vincentc. 1871–1872aged 18. This photograph was taken at the time when he was working at the branch ofGoupil & Cie's gallery inThe Hague.[2][3]

Theoin 1888 at 31. Theo was a life-long supporter and friend to his brother. The two are buried together at Auvers-sur-Oise.

The most comprehensive primary source for understanding Van Gogh is the collection of letters between him and his younger brother,art dealerTheo van Gogh.[4]They lay the foundation for most of what is known about his thoughts and beliefs.[5][6]Theo provided his brother with financial and emotional support. Their lifelong friendship, and most of what is known of Vincent's thoughts and theories of art, is recorded in the hundreds of letters exchanged between 1872 and 1890. There are more than 600 from Vincent to Theo, and 40 from Theo to Vincent.

Although many are undated, art historians have generally been able to put them in chronological order. Problems remain, mainly in dating those fromArles, although it is known that during that period Van Gogh wrote around 200 letters to friends in Dutch, French and English.[7]The period when Vincent lived in Paris is the most difficult to analyze because the brothers lived together and had no need to correspond.[8]Along with the letters to and from Theo, there are other surviving documents including toVan Rappard,Émile Bernard, Van Gogh's sisterWiland her friend Line Kruysse.[9]The letters were annotated in 1913 by Theo's widow,Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, who later said that she published with "trepidation" because she did not want the details of the artist's life to overshadow his work.[4]


Main article:Vincent van Gogh chronology

Early life

See also:Van Gogh's family in his art

Vincent c. 1866, approx. age 13

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 inGroot-Zundert, a village close toBreda, in the predominantly Catholic province ofNorth Brabantin the southernNetherlands.[10][11]He was the oldest surviving child of Theodorus van Gogh, a minister of theDutch Reformed Church, and Anna Cornelia Carbentus. Vincent was given the name of his grandfather, and of a brother stillborn exactly a year before his birth.[note 2]The practice of reusing a name was not unusual. Vincent was a common name in the Van Gogh family: his grandfather, Vincent (1789–1874), received his degree of theology at theUniversity of Leidenin 1811. Grandfather Vincent had six sons, three of whom became art dealers. Grandfather Vincent had perhaps been named in turn after his own father's uncle, the successful sculptor Vincent van Gogh (1729–1802).[12][13]Art and religion were the two occupations to which the Van Gogh family gravitated. His brotherTheodorus"Theo" was born on 1 May 1857. He had another brother, Cor, and three sisters: Elisabeth, Anna, andWillemina"Wil".[14]

Vincent was a serious and thoughtful child. He attended the village school at Zundert from 1860, where a single Catholic teacher taught around 200 pupils. From 1861, he and his sister Anna were taught at home by agoverness, until 1 October 1864, when he was placed in Jan Provily's boarding school atZevenbergenabout 20 miles (32km) away. He was distressed to leave his family home. On 15 September 1866, he went to the new middle school,Willem II Collegein Tilburg. Constantijn C. Huysmans, a successful artist in Paris, taught Van Gogh to draw at the school and advocated a systematic approach to the subject. Vincent's interest in art began at an early age. He began to draw as a child and continued making drawings throughout the years leading to his decision to become an artist. Though well-done and expressive,[15]his early drawings do not approach the intensity he developed in his later work.[16]In March 1868, Van Gogh abruptly left school and returned home. A later comment on his early years was in an 1883 letter to Theo in which he wrote, "My youth was gloomy and cold and sterile."[17]

Van Gogh's drawing of87 Hackford Road

In July 1869, his uncle Cent helped him obtain a position with the art dealerGoupil & CieinThe Hague. After his training, in June 1873, Goupil transferred him to London, where he lodged at87 Hackford Road, Brixton, and worked at Messrs. Goupil & Co., 17 Southampton Street.[18]This was a happy time for Vincent; he was successful at work and was, at 20, earning more than his father. Theo's wife later remarked that this was the happiest year of his life. He fell in love with his landlady's daughter, Eugénie Loyer, but when he finally confessed his feelings to her, she rejected him, saying that she was secretly engaged to a former lodger. He became increasingly isolated and fervent about religion; his father and uncle arranged for him to be transferred to Paris, where he became resentful at how art was treated as acommodity, a fact apparent to customers. On 1 April 1876, Goupil terminated his employment.[19]

The house "Holme Court" in Isleworth, where Van Gogh stayed in 1876[20][21]

Van Gogh returned to England for unpaid work as a supply teacher in a smallboarding schoolinRamsgate. When the proprietor of the school relocated toIsleworth, Middlesex, Van Gogh moved with him, taking the train to Richmond and the remainder of the journey on foot.[22]The arrangement did not work out and he left to become aMethodistminister's assistant, following his wish to "preach the gospel everywhere".[23]At Christmas, he returned home and found work in a bookshop inDordrechtfor six months. He was unhappy in the position, and spent much of his time either doodling or translating passages from the Bible into English, French and German.[24]According to his roommate of the time, a young teacher named Görlitz, Van Gogh ate frugally, and preferred not to eat meat.[25][note 3]

Van Gogh's religious zeal grew until he felt he had found his true vocation. To support his effort to become a pastor, his family sent him to Amsterdam to study theology in May 1877, where he stayed with his uncle Jan van Gogh, a navalVice Admiral.[26][27]Vincent prepared for the entrance exam with his uncleJohannes Stricker, a respected theologian who published the first "Life of Jesus" in the Netherlands. Van Gogh failed the exam, and left his uncle Jan's house in July 1878. He then undertook, but failed, a three-month course at the Vlaamsche Opleidingsschool, aProtestantmissionary school in Laeken, nearBrussels.[28]

The house where Van Gogh stayed inCuesmesin 1880; while living here he decided to become an artist

In January 1879, he took a temporary post as a missionary in the village ofPetit Wasmes[note 4]in the coal-mining district ofBorinagein Belgium atCharbonnage de Marcasse, Van Gogh lived like those he preached to, sleeping on straw in a small hut at the back of the baker's house where he was staying. The baker's wife reported hearing Van Gogh sobbing at night in the hut. His choice of squalid living conditions did not endear him to the appalled church authorities, who dismissed him for "undermining the dignity of the priesthood". He then walked to Brussels,[29]returned briefly to the village ofCuesmesin the Borinage, but gave in to pressure from his parents to return home toEtten. He stayed there until around March the following year,[note 5]a cause of increasing concern and frustration for his parents. There was particular conflict between Vincent and his father, who made inquiries about having Vincent committed to thelunatic asylumatGeel.[30][note 6]

He returned to Cuesmes, where he lodged until October with a miner named Charles Decrucq.[31]He became interested in the people and scenes around him, and recorded his time there in his drawings, following Theo's suggestion that he take up art in earnest. He traveled to Brussels that autumn, intending to follow Theo's recommendation to study with the prominent Dutch artistWillem Roelofs, who persuaded him—in spite of his aversion to formal schools of art—to attend theAcadémie Royale des Beaux-Artsin Brussels, where he registered on 15 November 1880. At the Académie, he studied anatomy and the standard rules ofmodelingandperspective, about which he said, "you have to know just to be able to draw the least thing."[32]Van Gogh aspired to become an artist in God's service, stating: "to try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another in a picture."[33]

Etten, Drenthe and The Hague

See also:Early works of Vincent van Gogh

Kee Vos Stricker with her son Jan c. 1879/1880.

Van Gogh moved with his parents to theEttencountryside in April 1881. He continued drawing, often using neighbors as subjects. During the first summer, he took long walks with his recently widowed cousin, Kee Vos-Stricker, daughter of his mother's older sister and Johannes Stricker.[34]Kee was seven years older than Van Gogh and had an eight-year-old son. He proposed marriage, but she refused with the words "No, nay, never" ("nooit, neen, nimmer").[35][36]Late that November, Van Gogh wrote a strongly worded letter to Johannes,[37]and then hurried toAmsterdam, where he spoke with him on several occasions.[38]Kee refused to see him, and her parents wrote: "Your persistence is disgusting." In desperation, he held his left hand in the flame of a lamp, with the words: "Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame."[39]He did not recall the event well, but later assumed that his uncle blew out the flame. Kee's father made it clear to him that Kee's refusal should be heeded and that the two would not be married[40]because of Van Gogh's inability to support himself.[41]Van Gogh's perception of his uncle and former tutor's hypocrisy affected him deeply and put an end to his religious faith forever.[42]That Christmas, he refused to attend church, quarreling violently with his father as a result and leading him to leave home the same day forThe Hague.[43][44]

He settled in The Hague in January 1882, where he visited his cousin-in-law,Anton Mauve, a Dutchrealistpainter and a leading member of theHague School. Mauve introduced him to painting in both oil and watercolor and lent him money to set up a studio,[45]but the two soon fell out, possibly over the issue of drawing fromplaster casts.[46]Van Gogh's uncleCornelis, an art dealer, commissioned 12 ink drawings of views of the city, which Van Gogh completed soon after arriving in The Hague, along with a further seven drawings that May.[47]In June, he spent three weeks in a hospital, suffering fromgonorrhea,[48]and that summer, he began to paint in oil.[49]

Rooftops, View from the Atelier The Hague,1882, watercolour, Private collection.

Mauve appears to have suddenly gone cold towards Van Gogh and did not return some of his letters.[50]Van Gogh supposed that Mauve had learned of his new domestic arrangement with an alcoholic prostitute,Clasina Maria "Sien" Hoornik(1850–1904), and her young daughter.[51][52]He had met Sien towards the end of January, when she had a five-year-old daughter and was pregnant. She had already borne two children who died, although Van Gogh was unaware of this;[53]and on 2 July, she gave birth to a baby boy, Willem.[54]When Van Gogh's father discovered the details of their relationship, he put pressure on his son to abandon Sien and her children, although Vincent at first defied him.[55]Vincent considered moving the family out of the city, but in the autumn of 1883 left Sien and the two children.[56]It is possible that lack of money pushed Sien back to prostitution; the home became less happy, and Van Gogh may have felt family life was irreconcilable with his artistic development. When he left, Sien gave her daughter to her mother and baby Willem to her brother. She then moved toDelft, and later toAntwerp.[57]