Vincent van Gogh

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Vincent van Gogh was a painter, considered to be one of the greatest Dutch painters after Rembrandt. He was born on March 30, 1853, the son of a minister and an artist. His parents had a still born baby exactly a year before his birth, who they had also named Vincent. Van Gogh was a melancholy child, and the added financial pressure that his family was facing made him even more so. He was forced to quit school at the age of 15 in order to support the family income. He started working at his uncle’s art dealership in The Hague. He was fluent in many languages other than Dutch, including English, German and French. In 1873, he moved to London for work, and immediately fell in love with the city. He read all the classic English authors such as Charles Dickens and George Eliot. He fell in love with his landlady’s daughter and sent her a marriage proposal, which was rejected.

Shattered by this rejection, Vincent van Gogh suffered a nervous breakdown. He took to religion, read the Bible and devoted his life to God. He taught at a Methodist school for a while, and thought about joining the church as a full time profession. However, his stubborn refusal to study Latin got him denied from the entrance exam. He moved to Belgium for a while to preach to miners, where he also drew and painted the scenes he saw at the mines. However, they did not like him and he was forced to move and find another occupation.  He then moved to Brussels to pursue art. His brother Theo was supporting him financially and van Gogh began studying art on his own.

Van Gogh fell in love with his cousin Kate who rejected his advances and moved away. This led him to become depressed and he became romantically involved with a prostitute named Clasina Maria. He moved to The Hague with her and she used to model for his paintings. However, she soon left him and went back to prostitution, which led him to be even more depressed. His family also threatened to cut him off so he traveled around, living a nomadic life, drawing and painting wherever he went. In 1885, he moved to Paris to live with his brother. Here he created his masterpiece called “Potato Eaters” but at that time it was not well received. He began studying the works of impressionist painters such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pissarro, as well as Japanese art and eastern philosophy. He moved to a little yellow house in the south of France, where he spent his days painting. His physical as well as mental health was deteriorating by that time, and his art never gained him much success. One night, he went to a local brothel holding his own ear in his hand, which he had cut off with a razor. He offered it to a prostitute there and asked her to keep it carefully.

This incident and similar others led him to be placed in psychiatric care. He was repeatedly hospitalized, and eventually died in his brother’s arms from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in 1890. He was only 37 years old at that time. His brother died six months later. At the time of his death, Vincent van Gogh was virtually unknown as an artist. After his death, his brother Theo’s wife Johanna took upon the task of collecting and popularizing his paintings. His posthumous fame began with an exhibition of his paintings in Paris, which led to widespread and worldwide fame. Some of his most famous paintings include Starry Night, Almond Branches in Bloom, Sunflowers, The Olive Trees, Irises in Vase and The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, amongst dozens of others. Some of his paintings have sold for upwards of $80 million.

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