Although he was not famous in his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh is now considered to be one of the greatest artists of his time and his paintings now sell for millions of dollars. Below is a brief biography of van Gogh’s life and includes many interesting facts about his life.
- Vincent van Gogh was born in Zundert, Netherlands on March 30, 1853. He had two brothers and three sisters and although his father and grandfather were ministers, other family members did work in the art world.
- He was around 27 when he finally decided to devote his life to art. Before this, he had many different jobs. He was a teacher in London, a minister, he worked in a book store, an art gallery and also worked as a missionary.
- He learned to draw using pencils or charcoal sticks. Sometimes he would also use watercolors. Over time he came to paint using oil paints. One of his favorite subjects was to draw poor, hardworking people.
- His early paintings were often sad and somber. He achieved this by using a lot of dark colors like brown and dark green and by focusing on poor people. One of his most famous early paintings was The Potato Eaters, which was a very dark and somber painting of a poor peasant family eating potatoes for their dinner.
- Most of what we know about van Gogh come from letters that he wrote to his brother, Theo. He was very close to his younger brother, who worked in an art gallery in Paris. Theo supported Vincent’s art career by sending him money and encouraging him. Theo also tried to sell Vincent’s paintings, but at the time nobody wanted to buy them.
- Theo introduced Vincent to Impressionism. He wrote to let Vincent know about this new style of painting in Paris, and in 1886 Vincent van Gogh moved to Paris to learn from these new painters. As a result, his art became influenced by painters including Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro.
- During his time in Paris, van Gogh started to use brighter colors. His brushwork also changed and became more broken as he painted subjects found in the streets of Paris, as well as the countryside.
- He painted over 20 self portraits during his time in Paris. He became very interested in painting portraits of people and turned to self portraits when he couldn’t find any subjects to paint.
- Van Gogh moved to Arles, France in 1888. During this time he set up an artist’s commune and invited artist Paul Gauguin to join him.
- In Arles, van Gogh began to paint with even more intensity and emotion. The vibrant colors of Arles inspired him and his paintings became more vibrant and bright. He would often paint directly to the canvas from the tubes, leaving it thick with rough brush strokes that would sometimes take weeks to dry.
- He became fully obsessed with art. He painted hundreds of pieces of art during his time in Arles. Sometimes he would paint masterpieces in a single day.
- Vincent van Gogh cut off his own ear. After an argument with Paul Gauguin, van Gogh cut off his own ear with a razor and presented it to a woman, named Rachel, to “keep this object carefully”. Doctors told his brother Theo that Vincent would live, and on January 7, 1889, van Gogh was released from hospital.
- In 1889, Vincent van Gogh commited himself to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This happened because the people of Arles signed a petition to say that he was dangerous. On May 8, 1889 he begain to paint in the hospital grounds and was invited to exhibit his painting in Brussels later that year, in November. He sent six of his paintings, including Irises and Starry Night.
- On July 27, 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a pistol. The bullet didn’t kill him and he was found bleeding in his room. His brother Theo came to be by his side and they spent a couple of days together talking. After Theo took him home, van Gogh died in his brothers arms on July 29, 1890.
- Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, died six months later. He was already suffering from syphilis and he was weakened by Vincent’s death. He died in a Dutch asylum and was eventually buried in Auvers cemetary next to his brother.
- Today, several of van Gogh’s paintings rank among the most expensive in the world. Irises, which was painted during his time in the asylum, sold for a record $53.9 million, and Portrait of Dr. Gachet, a portrait of the doctor who cared for him during the final months of his life, was painted in June 1890 and sold for $82.5 million in 1990.
- During his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh completed over 2,100 works. These include 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, sketches and drawings.
Vincent van Gogh Biography
Vincent Willem van Gogh
Date of Birth
March 30, 1853
Date of Death
July 29, 1890
Place of Birth
Sanna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh
Attended Zundert village school; home taught by governess and when he reached 11 years old, he went away to the elementary boarding school of Jan Provily in Zevenbergen. At 13 to went to a middle school, Willem II College in Tilburg
Dutch post-impressionist painter
Reason for Fame
Van Gogh’s work has made him one of the most famous artists of all time.
At age 37 and greatly depressed, he shot himself in the chest, survived the impact, but died two days later. He had little success during his lifetime, but his fame grew rapidly after his heath. Van Gogh’s painting Ires was sold for a record $53.9 million and his Portrait of Doctor Gachet was sold for $82.5 million, thus establishing a new price record.