Vincent Willem van Gogh (Dutch: [ˈvɪnsɛnt ˈʋɪləm vɑn ˈɣɔx]; 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. In just over a decade he produced over 2100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, with the majority created in the last two years of his life. They include portraits, self portraits, landscapes, still lifes, olive trees, cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers, and are characterised by symbolic colourisation and dramatic, impulsive and highly expressive paintwork. He sold only one painting during his lifetime and was largely unnoticed by critics until his suicide, aged 37, which followed years of restless anxiety, poverty and mental illness.
Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child, was thoughtful and intellectual but evidenced signs of mental instability. He worked as an art dealer as a young man, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion, spending time as a preacher in southern Belgium, and later drifting in ill health and solitude. He was keenly aware of modernist trends in art, music and literature, and after moving back home with his parents, took up painting in 1881; supported financially by his younger brother Theo. His early works are mostly depictions of common and peasant laborers, and contain few signs of the vivid colourisation that distinguished his mature period. In 1886 he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. From then his paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in 1888. There he lived in the so called Yellow house, and with Paul Gauguin developed a concept of colour that would symbolise inner emotion.
However he continued to suffer from psychotic episodes and delusions, and the brief friendship with Gauguin came to an end after a violent encounter during which Van Gogh threatened the Frenchman with a knife, and then cut off most of his own right ear. He committed himself to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Remy, where his condition stabilised, leading to one of the more productive periods of his life. After he moved to Auberge Ravoux (now a French historic landmark) in the the village of Auvers-sur-Oise under the care of the homeopathic doctor and artist, Dr Gatchet. While there Theo wrote to him that he would no longer be able to support him financially. He walked into into a wheat field on July 27, 1890, and shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died two days later.
Viewed as a failure in his lifetime, Van Gogh's emotionally charged paintings, and spontaneous vivid colours, broad oil brushstrokes and early death have led to his position in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius. His widespread critical, commercial and popular success began after his adoption by the early 20th-century German Expressionists and Fauves. His reputation grew steadily during the 20th century; today he is remembered as an important but tragic painter, whose troubled personality typifies the romantic ideal of the tortured artist. However art historians today see an artist deeply frustrated and inhibited by the inactivity and incoherence caused by frequent mental sickness.
Except for some brief periods of formal instruction, van Gogh was self-taught; he collected prints and reproductions to study and copy, especially those of Millet. His life and work are legendary in the history of art, making him the quintessential misunderstood, tormented, even insane artist, who sold only one work in his lifetime but whose paintings achieved record auction sales prices after his death. Van Gogh was active as an artist for only ten years, during which time he produced around 1000 watercolors, drawings and sketches and nearly 1250 paintings. His styles included an early dark, Realist style and a later colorful, intense, expressionistic style. Almost more than on his oeuvre, his fame has been based on the extensive, diary-like correspondence he maintained, in particular with his brother, Theo.
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