This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

Vincent Van Gogh has become the archetypal tormented genius

Posted in Art, Artist, Famous artists, Psychology on Friday, 16 March 2012

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

This edited article about Van Gogh originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 668 published on 2 November 1974.

Vincent Van Gogh, picture, image, illustration

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh was one of the greatest and most revolutionary artists in the world. He was born on March 30, 1853, the eldest of six children, at Groot Zunder in Holland.

Van Gogh began work in a firm of art dealers and at the age of 24 he decided to devote his life to religion. After becoming a volunteer preacher among the miners of Belgium he soon realised that he was not suited to the life and it was at this time that he turned to painting.

Between the years 1884 and 1890 he produced about 700 drawings and 800 oil paintings, only one of which was sold in his own lifetime. Van Gogh was always desperately poor, but his faith in the urgency of what he was doing, and the encouragement he received from his younger brother, Theo, kept him going.

The letters which Vincent wrote to Theo give a brilliant insight in to the painter’s aims and beliefs. His Collected Correspondence is not only a great autobiographical record, but is also recognised as great literature.

Van Gogh painted three types of subject: still life, landscape, and figure, all of them interrelated by Van Gogh’s interest in the peasants’ daily life, the hardships they endured, and the countryside they worked on.

In 1888 Van Gogh rented a house in Arles where, for two months, he worked with another famous artist, Gaugin. Relations between the two soon deteriorated and on Christmas Eve that year, Van Gogh cut off part of his left ear, having broken under the strain of his nerves. At the end of April, 1889, he asked to be ‘temporarily shut up’ in the asylum at St Remy de Provence so that he could work under supervision.

Feelings of guilt at his dependence on his brother, despair of ever overcoming his loneliness or of being cured of his mental depressions drove Van Gogh in deep despair to commit suicide in July 1890.

Virtually unknown at the time of his death, the name of Van Gogh is now famous throughout the world. His reputation has never ceased to grow and the influence he exerted on the development of modern painting, on artists like Picasso and Matisse cannot be overestimated.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.