Vincent Van GoghVincent Van Gogh 1853-1890

Dutch painter. At 16 he was apprenticed to art dealers in The Hague, and he worked in their London and Paris branches (1873­76). After brief attempts at missionary work and theology, he studied drawing at the Brussels Academy; late in 1881 he settled at The Hague to work with a Dutch landscape painter, Anton Mauve. During his early years he painted three types of subjects‹still life, landscape, and figure‹all interrelated by their reference to the daily life of peasants (e.g., The Potato Eaters, 1885). After briefly studying at the Antwerp Academy, in 1886 he left to join his brother Theo, an art dealer, in Paris. There he met Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and others involved in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. By the summer of 1887 he was painting in pure colours and using broken brushwork that was at times pointillistic, and by the beginning of 1888 his Post-Impressionist style had crystallized. He left Paris in February 1888 for Arles, in southeastern France. The pictures he created over the following 12 months‹depicting blossoming fruit trees, views of the town and surroundings, self-portraits, portraits of Roulin the postman and other friends, interiors and exteriors of the house, sunflowers, and landscapes‹marked his first great period. Gauguin arrived in October 1888, and for two months he and van Gogh worked together; but, while each influenced the other to some extent, their relations rapidly deteriorated. On Christmas Eve 1888, physically and emotionally exhausted, van Gogh snapped under the strain; after arguing with Gauguin, he cut off the lower half of his own left ear. At the end of April 1889, van Gogh entered an asylum but continued to paint; during his 12-month stay he completed 150 paintings and drawings. A move to Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890 was followed by another burst of activity, but he soon suffered a relapse and died that July of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His 10-year artistic career produced more than 800 paintings and 700 drawings, of which he sold only one in his lifetime. His work had a powerful influence on the development of modern painting, and he is considered the greatest Dutch painter since Rembrandt.

Courtesy of Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2003.