Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands, on March 30th 1853. He began to draw as a child, and continued throughout the years that led up to his decision to become an artist. Van Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over ten years, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolours, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self-portraits, landscapes (paintings of cypresses and wheat fields), still lives, and sunflowers. The paintings of this post-Impressionist artist are notable for their roughness and bold colour.
When he died, Van Gogh was little known. Only a handful of amateurs appreciated him, He was finally recognized in 1930
when and exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York drew a crowd of 125,000 persons.
Vincent's first job was for an art dealer for whom he traveled between London, Paris, and The Hague's. Then, he taught for a time in England. One of his early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community. In 1885, he painted his first major work The Potato Eaters. His palette at the time consisted mainly of sombre earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later work.
In March of 1886, Van Gogh went to France. In Paris he discovered the Impressionists, he studied the paintings of the artists of the time, he visited museums and art galleries. He studied Japanese prints and English engravings. In February 1888, he moved to Arles, in the south of France where he intended to found a colony of artists. His brother Theo, the art dealer would sell the group paintings.
The sun that he finds in the South then impresses Vincent. The colours of his paintings brighten up and he develops his style.
Vincent suffered from recurrent psychotic episodes during the last 2 years of his life. Well over 150 physicians have ventured a perplexing variety of diagnoses of his illness. Henri Gastaut, in a study of the artist's life and medical history published in 1956, identified van Gogh's major illness as temporal lobe epilepsy precipitated by the use of absinthe in the presence of an early limbic lesion. In essence, Gastaut confirmed the diagnosis originally made by the French physicians who had treated van Gogh.
However, van Gogh had earlier suffered two distinct episodes of reactive depression, and there are clearly bipolar aspects to his history. Both episodes of depression were followed by sustained periods of increasingly high energy and enthusiasm.
The cut ear
On the morning of December 24th 1888, the police brought Van Gogh to the hospital. The painter's face was smeared with blood.
The night before, he had cut off his left ear lobe. It seems that the psychotic episodes of the artist had been inflamed by the presence of another painter Gauguin
Van Gogh met Gauguin in Paris in November of 87 where he had organized an exhibition for some impressionists' painters. In May of 1888,Van Gogh rented four rooms in a building on Place de la Martine in Arles (The Yellow House) where he intended to install his artist's colony.
In order to persuade Gauguin to work in the Maison Jaune, Theo had accepted to pay him 250 per month in exchange of one painting.
It seems that the situation got inflamed from the start. Gauguin and Van Gogh did not se eye to eye on some (if not on all) aspect of artistic life. The two were known to fight about it. Van Gogh believed an artist should paint what he saw, while Gauguin painted according to his memory. But that is not all that was wrong. Van Gogh greatly admired Gauguin, and desperately wanted to be treated as his equal. But Gauguin was arrogant and domineering, a fact that often frustrated van Gogh.
On the night of December 23rd, it seems that things got really ugly and Vincent ended up running after Gauguin in the streets of Arles armed with a knife. It is when he had returned to the Yellow House that van Gogh went to work on his ear which he then wrapped in newspaper and delivered to a prostitute. Then he came back home to bed, where the police found him the next morning.
History has always painted Vincent Van Gogh as the artist who cut off his ear. But according to a pair of German researchers, history might have the wrong man. Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, from Hamburg University believe that, in fact, it was Paul Gauguin, who cut off Vincent's ear. And the injury wasn't inflicted for the sake of art either it seems that the reason was a feud over a prostitute.
Kaufmann and Wildegans pored over the evidence for ten years. They believe the story about the self-inflicted wound was invented by the sword-wielding Gauguin just to protect himself.
What is not disputed is that Van Gogh lost his ear when the two artists were living together in December 1888. But on this occasion, they were fighting over a prostitute named Rachel, outside the brothel where she worked, the book says.
Hans Kaufmann, said: 'To get rid of Van Gogh, who was begging him to stay in the «Yellow House» Gauguin waved his weapon in the direction of the victim while they were in front of the house of ill repute. That is when the left ear fell. 'The next day, the police questioned Gauguin. That's when he made up the theory about self-mutilation.'
On 8 May 1889, van Gogh committed himself to the hospital at Saint Paul-de-Mausole. A former monastery in Saint-Rémy less than 20 miles
(32 km) from Arles,
Auvers-sur-Oise (May–July 1890)
In May 1890, Vincent left the clinic in Saint-Rémy to move nearer the physician Dr. Paul Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise, and also to Theo.
On 22 February 1890, he suffered a new crisis. This period lasted until the end of April, during which time he continued to draw and paint.
On 27 July 1890, Van Gogh is believed to have died from a gunshot wound, which he inflicted himself. He was 37 years old.
An abundant correspondence is exchanged between Vincent and his family. Some 800 letters of which 652 were sent to Theo, who provided him the moral support and financial encouragement. These letters give us an idea of the life of Vincent and of his way of thinking Art and the making of a picture.
Click here to read the letters
Other paintings by Vincent Van Gogh