Interesting facts from the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh

The career of Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is amazing and tragic. His success was brief, but as bright as a flash of lightning. It took this Dutch post-impressionist painter a little longer than other artists of the era to find his calling. Now his life and work are immortalized in films, songs and art exhibitions, but as is the case with many great creators, Van Gogh was not particularly famous during his lifetime. What was the author of “Starry Night” and “Sunflowers”?

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Van Gogh, self-portrait. Photo Wikipedia

1. Most of Van Gogh’s paintings were painted in one decade

He was born and raised in the Netherlands and at the age of 16 began working for his uncle’s art firm Goupil & Cie in The Hague. Subsequently, his uncle sent him to his London branch, and then to Paris, but young Vincent lost interest in the work of an art dealer and left the company in 1876. He begins to paint independently, considering it his true vocation. Between November 1881 and July 1890, the self-taught Van Gogh painted about 900 paintings.

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2. Van Gogh created his “Starry Night” in a mental hospital

At the end of 1888, the artist entered the French hospital Saint-Paul-de-Mausole after a nervous breakdown and subsequent seizure. “Starry Night” is a view from the window, but without the iron bars. Van Gogh also depicted a beautiful moonlit city in the distance, which he could not see from his window.

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Starry Night by Van Gogh.
Photo Wikipedia

3. Nine paintings from the “Sunflowers” series have survived

Van Gogh wrote two series of “Sunflowers”. He completed the first series of four paintings, Parisian Sunflowers, while living with his brother in Paris in the mid-1880s. On them, flowers are depicted lying. Then, when Van Gogh moved to the yellow house in Arles in 1888, he began work on the Arles Sunflowers series, which depicts flowers in vases. Initially, the artist painted seven sunflowers in Arles, but one burned down during the Second World War, and the other was lost after being sold to a private collection.

Sunflowers, Van Gogh. Photo Wikipedia

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4. Historians do not have a single version of why the artist deprived himself of his ear (or his lobe)

This incident took place on December 23, 1888, when Paul Gauguin arrived in Arles. There are several theories as to why Van Gogh brought a knife or razor to his ear on that fateful evening. The main version is his reaction to a violent quarrel with Gauguin, although some researchers believe that Van Gogh may have gone mad at the news that his beloved brother Theo is getting married. There is also a version that Gauguin himself cut off his ear during a fight. Moreover, Van Gogh then carried the severed lobe to a prostitute in the nearest brothel (according to another version, to the waitress) and asked her to keep his ear.

5. The artist most likely shot himself

The case with the ear in 1888 may be related to the fact that the artist had already developed a mental illness. Although the doctor once diagnosed him with epilepsy, it is now suggested that it could be hallucinatory psychosis, alcoholism, syphilis, turpentine poisoning, schizophrenia, or manic-depressive state.

On July 27, 1890, Van Gogh went into a field near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise and shot himself in the stomach, although he allegedly aimed at the heart. With such a wound, he was even able to return to the tavern where he was staying, but two days later the artist died. He was only 37 years old. Some experts speculate that Van Gogh may have been shot, but it is officially believed that it was suicide.

“Van Gogh on his deathbed.” Drawing by Paul Gachet. Photo Wikipedia

6. During his lifetime, his paintings were not bought

In addition to 19 landscapes of The Hague, which his uncle ordered him, Van Gogh sold only a few works during his lifetime. One – to the merchant Julien Tanguy, the second painting was sold by his brother Theo to a London gallery, and the third painting “Red Vineyard” – to the sister of Eugene Bosch, a friend of Van Gogh.

In addition, Van Gogh often gave his work to other artists in exchange for food or materials. Most of his paintings after his death passed to Theo Van Gogh, but Theo himself died a year after his brother. Subsequently, the widow of Theo Johanna took up the organization of exhibitions and the promotion of the work of her late brother-in-law throughout Europe, which ultimately led to the greater success of the artist, invaluable and unrecognized during his lifetime.

Van Gogh Quotes

  • “Sometimes success is the result of a series of failures.”
  • “It is certainly true that it is better to be fervent in spirit, even making more mistakes, than to be reserved and overly cautious.”
  • “[Великое] is not accidental; it is, first of all, desire ”.
  • “The sight of the stars always makes me dream.”
  • “Despite the fact that I am often not myself, calmness, pure harmony and music reign within me.”
  • “The more I think about it, the more I feel that there is nothing more aesthetic than loving people.”
  • “It’s so great to love as deeply as possible, because this is true strength, and the one who knows how to love deeply is capable of much, and what is done with love is done well.”
  • “Among the mass of dangers, there is also a safe island. What would life be like if we didn’t dare to take many things into our own hands? “
  • “I am seeking, I am pursuing a goal, and my heart is completely absorbed in this.”

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