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Vincent Van Gogh
Netherlands
1853-1890

Vincent Van Gogh

Impressionism
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Vincent Willem van Gogh (March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter and one of the most famous artists in the world.


In 1890, Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in insanity at the age of 37. Most of his famous works were completed in the last two years of his life, with 864 oil paintings, 1037 sketches and 150 watercolors. His personal preference was portraiture, and during his life, he painted 35 self-portraits, 11 sunflowers, 4 overlaid on previous practice drawings, 7 on the back of practice drawings, and 7 on cardboard. His representative works include Starry Night, self-portrait series, and Sunflower series.


Early Life

Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in a middle-class family in the Netherlands. His father was a priest. He also had an older brother named "Vincent Van Gogh," a boy who inherited his mother's white skin and his father's big eyes and was born to be loved but died within a few weeks. A year later, the Van Gogh we know was born on the day of his brother's death. That led the Christian couple to believe that this was God's compensation for them, so they named him "Vincent Van Gogh."  This sealed the tragedy of Van Gogh's life, as he was merely a substitute for his brother in his parents' eyes. When Van Gogh was four years old, his younger brother Theo Van Gogh was born. Unlike his distaste for his younger sister, Van Gogh showed an unusual affection for this little brother, often pinching his little cheeks when he was asleep and taking the initiative to put him to sleep. When they grew up, they shared common interests and often went for walks in the wilderness hand in hand, and their deep friendship continued throughout Van Gogh's life. When Van Gogh was nine years old, his parents, who valued education, sent him to a local elementary school. Due to the limited conditions of the school and the lack of systematic training of the teachers, the classes were rather relaxed and casual. Soon his parents realized that Van Gogh could no longer continue his studies in this environment. At the age of 11, he withdrew from school and was sent 10 miles away to a boarding school in Zevenbergen. The school offered three foreign language classes in English, French, and German, as well as basic drawing classes. These classes appealed to the young Van Gogh as if by magic, especially in art history and painting classes. There, Van Gogh met his first teacher, who admired Van Gogh's paintings, and told him, "In the future, whatever your profession, you must not give up painting, because God is too partial to you in this respect."


Career

In 1867, Van Gogh, who dropped out of school, stayed at home all the time. His parents were so anxious about Van Gogh turning 16 that they invited his uncle, who shared Van Gogh's name, to discuss Van Gogh's future career plans. His uncle was very enthusiastic because Van Gogh was his favorite child among the many younger ones. In this way, Van Gogh went to work as a clerk in his uncle's gallery. From a young age, Van Gogh was very gifted with languages and knew various languages such as French, Dutch, and Italian, so he took on the job of translating and communicating the documents of some countries in the office. Because of his excellent work performance, he was promoted to the position of painting agent. In May 1875, he was transferred to Paris, where he was wounded by his first love and became passionate about mysticism and religion. From January to April 1877, he worked in the Dordrecht bookstore. In May, he went to Amsterdam to live with his uncle and study Latin, Greek, and maths to apply Theology. In July 1878, Van Gogh went with his father from Amsterdam to Brussels, where he could study while serving as a missionary. In December, Vincent went as a missionary to a southern Belgian city near the French border. In 1879, he was kicked out of the church for eating and living with miners because of his enthusiasm for work. At this time, his younger brother Theo suggested that Van Gogh become a painter. After that, Van Gogh chose to paint and reached the end of his life on this road.


Becoming an artist

In 1880, Van Gogh returned to Cuesmes, lived in a miner's house, and began to embark on the road of creation, copying Miller's works. In October, he went to Brussels to study perspective and anatomy. In 1885, he painted The Potato Eaters. On March 26, his father died of a stroke, and Van Gogh was accused by his sister Anna of killing his father. From January 1886, Van Gogh studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. At the end of February, he went to Paris, where he lived with Theo, got acquainted with Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painters, and came into contact with the works of Japanese Ukiyo-e. In 1887, Van Gogh's palette became brighter and brighter as he approached the growing contemporary French art movement, and he exhibited his work twice on the walls of working-class cafes. In the same year, he met and became involved with Pissarro, Degas, Seurat, and Cézanne. He then began to think that he was a burden to his younger brother and left Paris.


Van Gogh’s mental breakdown

On October 23, 1888, Paul Gauguin came to live with Van Gogh, but the collaboration soon failed due to their conflicting personalities and differing ideas. On December 23, due to disappointment and self-blame, Van Gogh took all the blame and cut off a small piece of his ear. After Gauguin returned to Paris, he never saw him again. Van Gogh tried to reconcile with Gauguin several times, but Gauguin said, "it would be dangerous if he fell ill." Van Gogh continued to paint while lucid; in the same year, he began to paint the Sunflowers series. In January 1889, he painted Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. On May 8, he was admitted to the Saint-Rémy, and he painted Starry Night there in June. On May 16, 1890, Van Gogh was cured and discharged from the Saint-Rémy. The next morning, Vincent took the train to Lyon station to find Theo. In June, he spent a week with Theo's family and Dr. Gachet and painted Portrait of Dr. Gachet. In July, he completed his last painting, Wheatfield with Crows. On July 27, he shot himself in the chest and died in Theo's arms on July 29, and his funeral was held in Orwell on July 30.


Van Gogh’s painting style

Traditional Dutch painting and French realism influenced Van Gogh's early realistic style. In 1886, he met the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists and came into contact with Japanese Ukiyo-e, which led to a dramatic change in his painting style.


Characteristics of the theme in Van Gogh’s works

Van Gogh's works are full of natural compassion and awareness of suffering. For example, at the beginning of Van Gogh's artistic career, the most popular subjects were the gloomy scenes of mining areas and the working miners. During his time in Etten, His works often feature the sunset and peasants. Van Gogh was also passionate about field life and rural field scenes. He loved everything about farms, especially sunflowers, wheat fields, and warblers. He often chose these crops as the subject of his paintings. During his short artistic career, Van Gogh meticulously depicted these natural landscapes, still life, and people with his keen artistic perception. He was thus called "the purest of painters."


The color of Van Gogh’s works

Van Gogh was a colorist painter whose preference for color reached an almost maniacal state. Although this had a certain connection with his mental illness, it cannot be denied that Van Gogh was very talented and creative about color. The colors in his paintings are more unrestrained and exaggerated than other artists’ colors. It also profoundly influenced 20th-century Expressionist and Fauvist painting. Among all the pure and bright colors, Van Gogh's favorite was yellow, which was simple and straightforward, symbolizing the sun and the earth, representing light and hope. Driven by yellow, Van Gogh's paintings are characterized by sharp contrasts in brightness and purity, resulting in a luminous and decorative aesthetic. For example, Van Gogh's Sunflowers uses a large area of yellow as the main tone and then is complemented by earthy yellow, lemon yellow, and medium yellow. It gives the viewer a colorful and dazzling visual experience and expresses Van Gogh's aspiration for a better life. The contrasting colors in Van Gogh's paintings are often large and flat, which not only simplifies the shape of the subjects but also produces a harmonious visual effect. For example, The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum is decorated with large blocks of contrasting colors. The contrast between the yellow-orange lights and the dark blue night sky creates a sense of depth in the picture and vividly depicts people's nightlife.


Shapes of the subjects in Van Gogh’s works

Van Gogh's paintings pursue a wild shape. His thick and rough brushstrokes bring a straightforward and simple expression with power and intensity, emphasizing the transmission of "soul" rather than the expression of "form," which is very different from the concept of "faithful representation of nature" pursued by Classicalism. The subjects in Vincent Van Gogh's paintings seem to have a distinctive personality, with strong wildness and roughness, as if the painter was at the mercy of his passion. The viewers will be impressed and shocked by this passion and deeply feel the painter's inner world when they enjoy the paintings. This wild style is very much related to the time and environment in which the artist lived and his personality. Because Van Gogh had no professional art education, he completely took his inner emotions as the main standard. In addition, Van Gogh lived a life of hardship and illness, which had a profound impact on his psychology, so the shapes of the figures in his paintings were all distorted and wild, and it was these factors that gave Van Gogh rich emotions and profound perceptions.


The artist's personality was inextricably linked to his artistic appeal, as it often influenced his style, mood, brushwork, and the use of color. Vincent Van Gogh's character was naturally withdrawn, coupled with the constant loneliness in his later life, which made his character even stranger, but it was this withdrawn and strange character that made him particularly sensitive to art. For Van Gogh, art was a life-saver in his life. The more unfortunate he was, the more he clung to art, and his art was a symphony of soul and life.


Quotes

“The sadness will last forever.”

“If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning.” 

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