We've all heard this sad story. Vincent van Gogh lived a short, deeply tormented life, throughout which he sought (in vain) his place in the world. He died, by his own hand, feeling his life was a miserable failure. Unbeknownst to Vincent, the work he did pioneered the Expressionistic style and, 150 years after his birth, his name would be world famous.
Movement, Style, School or Period:
Post-impressionism > Expressionism
Date and Place of Birth:
March 30, 1853, Groot-Zundert, Netherlands
Vincent was the son of a Dutch Protestant minister, and grew up believing that his calling, too, lay in serving his fellow man. Unfortunately, his nature was such that anything he attempted was doomed to failure. He wasn't inattentive to career moves but, rather, threw himself into endeavors with such ferocity that he quickly exhausted his body, followed by his mind. By the time he was 27, van Gogh had been a theology student, a semi-trained evangelist in the slums of London and the mines of Wasmes (in Belgium), a French tutor, an unsuccessful art salesman and spurned by love.
Body of Work:
During his time with the miners, van Gogh painted the rough, miserable lives of the peasants with which he lived. One of these works, The Potato Eaters (1885), is acknowledged as his early masterpiece.
In 1886, Vincent moved to Paris, where his devoted brother, Theo, was an art dealer. He quickly launched himself into study of the Impressionists and Japanese prints and emerged, after two years, with a highly original palette. He relocated himself to Arles, in Provence, where he began a frenzy of painting (sometimes going through a canvas per day) that showed his love for the town, countryside and sunlight of the area. Better known works from his time in Arles include Bedroom at Arles (1888), The Night Café (1888) and Starry Night (1889). His painting increasingly showed a lack of brushwork as he, in his haste to capture it, spread the color he saw in life thickly on to the canvas with his palette knife - and even straight from the tube.
In the last two years of his life, van Gogh also executed a number of self-portraits, had a brief, turbulent friendship with Gauguin (they were roommates until one final argument took place), veered in and out of madness (institutionalizing himself from time to time) and continued to have a disastrous love life. In a bungled suicide attempt, he shot himself on July 27th, 1890, but didn't die until two days later. Vincent van Gogh died having sold one painting in his lifetime.
Picture; Imagno/ Hulton Archive/ Getty Images