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Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Williem Van Gogh is one of the most popular Dutch painters. He was born on March 30, 1853, in Zundert Netherlands to Theodorus Van Gogh, a pastor, and Anna Cornelia Carbentus. Vincent's father was a successful preacher, and through him, Vincent learnt to regard his fellow humans with due respect. His mother was an amateur artist, and from her, he inherited a love of nature and art. He was the first born in a family of six (Klein 9).

In his childhood years, he enjoyed being in nature and loved reading. He spent time memorizing long excerpts from his favorite works by Harriet Beecher and Charles Dickens. His love of reading also resulted into a love of writing throughout his life whereby he wrote more than eight hundred letters of which most were dedicated to his brother, Theo, telling him the intimate details of his work and life. Some of his favorite outdoor activities were collecting insects and studying plants and animals. He also made up games for his younger brothers and sisters (Valerie 8).


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He began attending the village school at Zundert in 1861 and later went to a boarding school in Tilburg, Netherlands where he studied a wide range of subjects including French, German, Arithmetic, History, Geography, Botany, Zoology, Geometry, English, Mathematics and art. Vincent was not happy as a child; he was shy, quiet and unsociable in school. People described Gogh as the little boy with red hair and freckles who hardly ever smiled. He was also perceived to be rude and hot tempered (Malam 7).


In 1868, at the age of 15 years, (Bodden 1870) he left school and spent a year home with his family. In July 1869, he was employed at Goupil and Co., an international art firm that specialized in selling original paintings, lithographs, etchings and prints as an art dealer in The Hague. He was transferred to London in 1873. In his free time, the 20-year-old explored the city, perusing its museums, familiarizing himself with art and sketching the people he encountered.

Here, he fell in love with his landlady's daughter and was disappointed on learning that she did not love him back which made him moody and irritable and he refused to go out, which made people begin to label him as eccentric, a name he was called more and more as time proceeded. At work, Vincent was he was eager to succeed in the art trade. In fact both painters and customers said they enjoyed working with Vincent. In this company, he learnt to appreciate art since; in each city he worked he was exposed to new museums and artists, his favorite ones including French painters Jean-Francois Millet and Camille Corot (Collins 4).

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In the month of October 1874, he was transferred again to Paris, France. Here, he began attending church services on a regular basis and spent quality time in the city's museums and galleries. He also became unhappy with art trade, which was often displayed in his work by consistently questioning his customers about their taste of art and criticizing them. On realizing his change of attitude and lack of improvement, he was fired in the month of April 1876 (Bodden 1872)

For months, he suffered deep depression, which made him gloomy and eventually he cut off any social life. He became lonely as he rarely communicated with his family. As a result, he became more interested in religion. In May 1877, he was sent by his family to Amsterdam to study theology where he stayed with his Uncle Jan van Gogh who was a naval Vice Admiral. He prepared for the entrance examinations with his other uncle, Johannes Stricker, a celebrated theologian and a publisher of the first "Life of Jesus" but failed. He left his uncle's house in 1878. He later undertook a three-month course at the Vlaamsche Opleidingsschool Protestant School in Laeken but failed. He moved on to become a preacher. Since he failed to obtain a degree in theology, he worked as an evangelist in a very poor mining area in Belgium (Crispino 13)

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During his ministry, Vincent displayed the other side of him that people rarely knew of; his heart was charitable. He had already devoted four years to work as a preacher and above all shared his personal belongings with his brethren since most of them were miserably poor. After a short while, he looked very poor and even turned his face color to black, which made him disagree sharply with his superiors. His superiors viewed his extreme charitable behavior as incompatible with the amount of dignity associated with an ecclesiastic position. They challenged him to change his behaviors but in vain (Blummer, 519).

Artistic Life

When he refused fully to conform to their wishes, he was dismissed by the church and again he faced a serious setback in his life. At this point in his life, Vincent suffered yet another marked depression. His parents were exceedingly distressed on seeing their son had abandoned those religious beliefs that had all the way sustained him and began to pay attention to socialist ideas. It is remarkably clear to see that Van genuinely wanted to touch people's lives and be of use to them. He expressed his depressive emotions by writing to his brother, Theo, indicating that he had not changed; that his only worry is about how he could be useful to the world. He, finally at the age of twenty seven resolved to go back to art with an aim to produce artistic work for people.

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Depending largely on his own, he pursued his new career with a single intention. He suffered lack of recognition though he was able to persevere. His brother, Theo, was giving him unfailing financial support since he had become an artist in Paris. He was scorned by his widowed cousin, Kee, who he had a passionate ill-fated infatuation with and as a result he distanced himself from most of his family by cohabiting with a prostitute and two of her children for a year. When he went to live with his parents for a short while, he frequently and violently argued with his father (Blummer 520).

Vincent went to Paris in March 1886 to study at Fernand Cormon's studio, where he stayed with his brother Theo. Since they no longer needed to communicate by use of letters, less information is known about his stay in Paris than the earlier or later periods of his life. During his stay in Paris, he bought Japanese woodblock prints, of which he had interest since 1885 during his stay at Antwerp when he was using them to decorate the walls of his then studio. The hundreds of prints he collected can be seen at some of the backgrounds of his paintings.

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Vincent tremendously admired the artistic works of Adolphe Thomas Monticelli immediately he arrived there in 1886. Van and Theo helped inspire the publishing of the initial book about Monticelli. For the time he worked at Cormon's studio he frequently visited the circle for John Peter Russell, a British-Australian artist, where he met his fellow students who later painted his portrait with pastel. Paul Gauguin was one of the friends he met at Paris. Gauguin later became famous and was strongly influenced by the movement of impressionists.


Vincent began to suffer from paroxysms that consisted of sudden terrors and lapses of consciousness. Those close to him noticed that he had a peculiar stare, and later a confusional-amnestic- phase followed; he became quarrelsome and untidy and his excessive use of alcohol and smoking are believed to have significantly contributed to his illnesses (Blummer 521). As time passed by, Vincent started having problems appreciating other artists' views about their work. Conflicts arose between him and his friends. Theo found Vincent unbearable given that he awoke him at night with unnecessary disputes. Luckily, they agreed and made peace by the spring of 1887.

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In February 1888, he moved to Arles with the hope to secure a refuge, a time he was unwell from drinking and was undergoing a smoker's cough. He stayed in a room at the Hotel-Restaurant Carrel. He came to the town with magnificent expectations that it was descent but however Arles to him felt like a dangerous filthy place to be; like a foreign country. He felt lonely and disturbed but sought help from Theo. As a result, they persuaded Gauguin to stay with him towards the end of the year where they established a studio. Their relationship however worsened as they frequently quarreled and two months down the line Gauguin announced that he would leave. However, Vincent was not impressed by Gauguin's announcement. He quickly threw a glass of abstithe (an alcoholic drink) at Gauguin.

As Gauguin left the house, Vincent followed him and attempted to attack him with a sharp razor. Unsuccessful, he chopped off his earlobe with the razors, gave the cut off piece to his favorite prostitute and later covered his ear with a newspaper. The police was alerted of his intended attack and found him in the house unconscious and he was hospitalized (Collins 260).
In 1889, Vincent went to the hospital in Saint-Paul-de-Mausole to seek medical assistance where he met Dr.Theophile Peyron. Dr. Peyron organized two small rooms for Vincent that were adjacent to each other. The rooms had barred windows and he was to use one of them as a studio.

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During his stay in this hospital, Vincent went on with his artistic works concentrating more on his surroundings.He concentrated more on the clinic and its garden as his main subjects of his paintings though he also studied the hospital's interiors as well. At the hospital he would be allowed short but supervised walks which brought about the images of cypresses and olive trees of which he would then illustrate in his drawings. However, he lacked a wide range of subject matter due to his confinement in the small clinic's surroundings with lack of access to the world outside the clinic. This meant that he had to work on other artists' paintings as well as his own work that he had done earlier.

In May 1890, Vincent left the clinic and moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, a place he would be near the physician Dr. Paul Gachet and at the same time closer to Dr.Theophile. Dr. Paul Gachet was an amateur artist and he had treated several artists before. The following month, he painted Dr. Gachet's portrait and did other two of his portraits in oil and a third one by etching, all displaying the doctor's melancholic status. During his last week at Saint Remy's clinic, he had remembered of the North. He made about seventy oil paintings while staying in Auvers-sur-Oise from those memories from the North such as the painting of The Church at Auvers (Malam 21).


After he was acquitted from hospital Vincent's health deteriorated in December 1889. He had suffered mental illnesses throughout his life but it worsened and became more pronounced in his last years of his life. In some of the times he mentally suffered he would feel unwilling to paint, or at other instances were willing but unable to paint which added more frustrations in his life. He later was so mentally disturbed owing to his inability to paint that he suffered a severe depression (Klein 5).
On July 27 1890, he went to a field and shot himself with a revolver in his chest. He suffered from the incident but still he managed to move back to his hotel room where he stayed for the next two last days of his life. His brother, Theo went to comfort him but Vincent passed on two days later, aged thirty seven years (Klein 5).

Posthumous Fame

Vincent's fame had grown among his colleagues, dealers, art critics and collectors steadily in the late 1880s owing to the first exhibitions he took participated in the late 80s. After his death exhibitions were conducted in his memory in Paris, Brussels, Antwerp and The Hague. There were retrospectives in the early twentieth century in Amsterdam (1905), Paris (1905), important exhibitions by groups in Cologne (1913) and Berlin in 1914. Those exhibitions had a considerable impact and influence on the other generations of artists and by mid of the twentieth century he was seen as the most famous and recognizable painters in history.

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Vincent attended several schools in his early childhood years. His parents wanted him to get the best education and thus looked for the best school for him. Later in his life, Vincent attended art schools and even pursued a course in Theology. This is a clear indication that education is vital in everyone's life. One should seek an education that compliments his talent to make it more enhanced. He pursued the Theology course twice but failed which shows his determination to achieve his dream.
Vincent used to admire the works of people like Jean-Francois Millet, Joseph Monticelli and Anton Muave, demonstrating the value of friendship and mentorship in one's life. Van Gogh's love for Japan allows children to explore other culture from another perspective. His relationship with his colleagues can be employed to examine the exchange of ideas, communal working and artistic emulation (Blummer 522).



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