Vincent Van Gogh

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Vincent Willem van Gogh (March 30, 1853 in Zundert � July 29, 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist. His paintings and drawings include some of the world's best known, most popular and most expensive pieces.

Van Gogh spent his early life working for a firm of art dealers and after a brief spell as a teacher, became a missionary worker in a very poor mining region. He did not embark upon a career as an artist until 1880. Initially he worked in somber colors, until an encounter in Paris with Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism, whose brighter colours and style of painting he developed into a uniquely recognisable style, which was fully developed during time spent at Arles.

He produced all of his more than 2,000 works, including around 900 paintings and 1100 drawings and sketches, during the last ten years of his life. Most of his best-known works were produced in the final two years of his life, during which time he cut off part of his left ear following a breakdown in his friendship with Paul Gauguin. After this he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, and committed suicide.

The central figure in Vincent van Gogh's life was his brother Theo, who continually and selflessly provided financial support. Their lifelong friendship is documented in numerous letters they exchanged from August 1872 onwards.

Van Gogh is a pioneer of what came to be known as Expressionism and had an enormous influence on 20th century art, especially on the Fauves and German Expressionists.

Early life (1853 � 1869)

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert, a village close to Breda in the Province of North Brabant in the southern Netherlands. Vincent was the son of Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. He was given the same name as his grandfather�and a first brother stillborn exactly one year before. It has been suggested that being given the same name as his dead elder brother might have had a deep psychological impact on the young Vincent, and that elements of his art, such as the portrayal of pairs of male figures, can be traced back to this. The practice of reusing a name in this way was not uncommon. The name "Vincent" was often used in the Van Gogh family: the baby's grandfather was called Vincent van Gogh (1789-1874); he had received his degree of theology at the University of Leiden in 1811. Grandfather Vincent had six sons, three of whom became art dealers, including another Vincent, referred to in Van Gogh's letters as "Uncle Cent." Grandfather Vincent had perhaps been named after his own father's uncle, the successful sculptor Vincent van Gogh (1729-1802).Art and religion were the two occupations to which the Van Gogh family gravitated.

Four years after Van Gogh was born, his brother Theodorus (Theo) was born on May 1, 1857. There was also another brother named Cor and three sisters, Elisabeth, Anna and Wil. As a child, Vincent was serious, silent and thoughtful. In 1860 he attended the Zundert village school, where the only teacher was Catholic and there were around 200 pupils. From 1861 he and his sister Anna were taught at home by a governess, until October 1, 1864, when he went away to the elementary boarding school of Jan Provily in Zevenbergen, the Netherlands, about 20 miles away. He was distressed to leave his family home, and recalled this even in adulthood. On September 15, 1866, he went to the new middle school, Willem II College in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Constantijn C. Huysmans, who had achieved a certain success himself in Paris, taught Van Gogh to draw at the school and advocated a systematic approach to the subject. In March 1868 Van Gogh abruptly left school and returned home. His comment on his early years was: "My youth was gloomy and cold and sterile...."

Art dealer and preacher (1869 � 1878)

In July 1869, at the age of 15, he obtained a position with the art dealer, Goupil & Cie in The Hague, through his Uncle Vincent ("Cent"), who had built up a good business which became a branch of the firm. After his training, Goupil transferred him to London in June 1873, where he lodged at 87 Hackford Road, Brixton and worked at Messrs. Goupil & Co., 17 Southampton Street. This was a happy time for Vincent: he was successful at work, and was already, at the age of 20, earning more than his father. He fell in love with his landlady's daughter, Eug�nie Loyer, but when he finally confessed his feeling to her, she rejected him, saying that she was already secretly engaged to a previous lodger. Vincent became increasingly isolated and fervent about religion. His father and uncle sent him to Paris, where he became resentful at how art was treated as a commodity, and he manifested this to the customers. On April 1, 1876, it was agreed that his employment should be terminated.

His religious emotion grew to the point where he felt he had found his true vocation in life, and he returned to England to do unpaid work, first as a supply teacher in a small boarding school overlooking the harbour in Ramsgate; he made some sketches of the view. The proprietor of the school relocated to Isleworth, Middlesex. Vincent decided to walk to the new location. This new position did not work out, and Vincent became a nearby Methodist minister's assistant in wanting to "preach the gospel everywhere."

At Christmas that year he returned home, and then worked in a bookshop in Dordrecht for six months, but he was not happy in this new position and spent most of his time in the back of the shop either doodling, or translating passages from the Bible into English, French, and German. His roommate from this time, a young teacher called G�rlitz, later recalled that Vincent ate frugally, preferring to eat no meat. In an effort to support his wish to become a pastor, his family sent him to Amsterdam in May 1877 where he lived with his uncle Jan van Gogh, a rear admiral in the navy. Vincent prepared for university, studying for the theology entrance exam with his uncle Johannes Stricker, a respected theologian who published the first "Life of Jesus" available in the Netherlands. Vincent failed at his studies and had to abandon them. He left uncle Jan's house in July 1878. He then studied, but failed, a three-month course at the Protestant missionary school (Vlaamsche Opleidingsschool) in Laeken, near Brussels.

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