Famous Artists: Vincent van Gogh

Editorial credit: www.hollandfoto.net / Shutterstock.com. The Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam, is named for artist Vincent van Gogh.
Editorial credit: www.hollandfoto.net / Shutterstock.com. The Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam, is named for artist Vincent van Gogh.

Famous Artists: Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh is among the Netherlands’ most famous painters - in fact, he is considered the second best painter after Rembrandt. Despite being the best painter of his time, Van Gogh lived a poor life because he spent most of his time painting. He sold only one painting in his lifetime. He is remembered as an artist who had the ability to convey emotions and his spiritual state through his work. Each of his canvas paintings are densely laden with visible brushstrokes that emphasize his personal expressions and how he interpreted a scene in his thoughts.

Early Life

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853. His father was a clergyman while his mother was the daughter of a bookseller. He was the second born in a family of six children. During his childhood, Van Gogh exhibited unstable moods that altered his behavior, and he never showed any inclination toward art-making, particularly painting. He attended boarding schools and excelled in languages but in 1868 he dropped from school and never successfully went back to the classroom.

Early Training

After leaving school, Van Gogh took up a job at the international art dealers Goupil & Cie and worked at the Hague branch. He proved to be good in dealing with art, and he served with the firm for almost a decade. His brother Theo supported him financially and continued to do so for the rest of his life. In 1873, Theo became an art dealer while Van Gogh moved to the firm's branch in London. It was around this time that Van Gogh became mentally unstable and depressed. He turned to God and decided to become a clergy man. He left his job and moved to southern Belgium to became a preacher, he donated all his belongings to coal-miners and practically owned nothing apart from a few clothes. The church dismissed him for being overenthusiastic and over-committed to his faith. In 1880 he decided to engage in painting and at the same time serve God, he was still poor and depended on his brother. In 1881, poverty forced him to move to his parents’ home in the Netherlands where he taught himself to draw. While in his parents’ home, Van Gogh became infatuated with his cousin who kept rejecting his moves, his pursuit of her affection eventually split up the family. Van Gogh's brother Theo rented him a studio in The Hague where he could continue painting. His painting teacher Anton Mauve introduced him to the art of a famous French painter Jean-François Millet who was known to paint emotional art of laborers and peasants.


Van Gogh perfected the art of German Expressionists and the Fauves which made him adopt the use of subjective and spiritually inspired color. In the mid-twentieth century, Abstract Expressionists adopted his technique of expressing psychological emotions by brushstrokes. In 1980, Neo-Expressionists such as Eric Fischl and Julian Schnabel also adopted Van Gogh’s expressive palette and brushing techniques. In his lifetime, Van Gogh painted approximately 900 paintings and had done 1,100 sketches and drawings.

Death of Van Gogh

In 1888, Van Gogh moved to southern France where he worked on his famous paintings “Sunflowers." During one of his painting escapades, he invited a famous French painter, Gauguin. The two had a quarrel over unknown causes and Van Gogh threatened him with a razor. Although he did not inflict injuries to Gauguin, Van Gogh cut off part of his ear due to remorse. He was admitted to psychiatric hospitals where he spent time either in extreme depression, inertia, or concentrated artistic activity portraying the color and light in his environment. On July 27, 1890, Vincent van Gogh was shot in the stomach either by himself or by another person. He died two days later, at the age of 27. He is buried in Auvers-sur-Oise next to his younger brother Theo who died one year later.


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