Monday, October 5, 2015

Vincent Van Gogh

            Vincent Van Gogh was a post-impressionist painter whose work, notable for its beauty, emotion, and color highly influenced 20th-century art. He is considered the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt, although he struggled with mental illness, remained poor, and virtually unknown throughout his life.

            Vincent van Gogh was born to pastor Theodorus Van Gogh and Ann Cornelia Carbentus on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Holland. Vincent was the eldest in the Van Gogh household out of six children. He had two brothers, Theo and Cor, and his three sisters, Anna, Elisabeth and Willemina. Vincent was not the first born child the Van Gogh’s had. Exactly a year before Vincent was born, on March 30, 1852, his mother gave birth to a stillborn baby boy that they had also named Vincent.

            Vincent started school at the age of eight at a little village school. Then he went to the boarding school Jan Provily in 1864 at the age of eleven and studied English, French, and German. When Vincent went to school, his drawings were impressive but nothing showed that he wanted to be an artist. At the age of fifteen van, Gogh's family was struggling financially, and he was forced to leave school and go to work. He got a job at his Uncle Cornelis' art dealership, Goupil, and Company, a firm of art dealers in The Hague where Vincent went to work as a junior clerk selling art. Then he went to England in 1873. There, he worked and went to an art school. Vincent visited many galleries and also worked on the expansion of the London Branch.

            Van Gogh soon abandoned his lessons and began a ministry, in his early twenties when he obtained a six-month job at the Borinage Church as a preacher in Southern Belgium, preaching to the miners of Borinage. During this time, he was able to identify with the miners, their lifestyles, and their families. This interaction between Gogh and the worker class is later shown in his works as he becomes fascinated with depicting peasant life.(Barnes & Noble, Early Years)
In the fall of 1880, Van Gogh decided to move to Brussels and become an artist. Though he had no formal art training, his younger brother Theo, who worked as an art dealer, offered to support Van Gogh financially. He began taking lessons on his own.

            There in Brussels, Van Gogh had a tragic love life. He was attracted to women in trouble, thinking he could help them. His cousin, Kate, was recently widowed, and when Van Gogh fell in love with her, she was repulsed and fled to her home in Amsterdam. He then moved to The Hague and fell in love with Clasina Maria Hoornik, an alcoholic prostitute. She became his companion, mistress, and model.

            When Hoornik went back to prostitution, van Gogh became utterly depressed. In 1882, his family threatened to cut off his money unless he left Hoornik and The Hague. Van Gogh left in mid-September of that year to travel to Drenthe, a somewhat desolate district in the Netherlands. For the next six weeks, he lived a nomadic life, moving throughout the region while drawing and painting the landscape and its people.

            In April of 1885, Vincent’s father Theodorus Van Gogh died. To show how much he appreciated him, Vincent painted “The Still Life with the Open Bible.” In March of 1887, Van Gogh was able to organize his exhibition of Japanese prints (“Pere Tanguy”, “Walk along the Banks of the Seine near Asnieres”, and “The Courtesan”) in a café. When he went to Paris in 1875, he painted the towns and cities with dark colors. He also painted “The Outskirts of Paris near Montmartre,” and many sunflowers.

             Van Gogh’s “Potato Eaters”, his first major work, was painted in 1885. By this time, he was still having difficulty finding love but was beginning to receive interest in his paintings. He was now fully devoting himself to painting: living frugally, studying color theory, and admiring the works of artists like Peter Paul Rubens. Unfortunately, as would be his entire life, his paintings were still difficult to sell. His brother Theo, an art dealer and the recipient of many letters from Vincent, commented that there should be more color in his work. Van Gogh was painting peasants and rural landscapes using dark earth tones. Around this same time, Impressionism, with its bright, vivid colors, was becoming popular. (Templeton, Overview)

           In February 1888, van Gogh boarded a train to the south of France where he moved into the "little yellow house" with a fellow friend and artist by the name of Gauguin.There, Van Gogh spent his money on paint rather than food. He lived on coffee, bread, and absinthe, and found himself feeling sick and strange. Before long, it became apparent that in addition to suffering from physical illness, his psychological health was declining; around this time, he is known to have sipped on turpentine and eaten paint.

            Towards the end of 1888, the first signs of Van Gogh's mental illness began to take hold. He suffered from various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions. One such episode entailed Vincent pursuing Gauguin with a knife and threatening him intensely. Later that day, Vincent returned to their house and mutilated his ear, then offered it to a prostitute as a gift. Vincent was hospitalized for fourteen months and released to find Gauguin swiftly leaving Arles and his dream of an artistic community shattered.A year later in 1889, he had another breakdown and went to Saint-Rémy asylum.

            It was while he was a patient in the Saint-Rémy asylum that Van Gogh produced “Starry Night”. He was painting in a “dumb furry” during this period, staying up three nights in a row to paint because, as he wrote, “The night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” Though in a fever of productivity, “I wonder when I’ll get my starry night done,” he wrote, “a picture that haunts me always.” (Strickland and Boswell, Page 121-122)

            In 1900, at a British concentration camp, Vincent’s younger brother Cor committed suicide. Vincent’s other brother Theo wrote and said that he and his wife, Johanna, were going to have a child. Theo’s baby was named after his brother Vincent Willem Van Gogh.

            Just like his brother Cor, Vincent also committed suicide by borrowing his landlord’s revolver and shot himself but did not die until two days later on July 29, 1890, at age 37 in Auvers-Sur-Oise, France. After Van Gogh had died he became a famous artist because of, his sister in law, Johanna, who collected as many of his paintings and letters as she could but discovered that many of them had been destroyed or lost. When Theo and his wife passed away their son Vincent inherited most or all of his uncle’s paintings. Then in 1962, he gave his uncle’s paintings to the foundation of the Van Gogh museum.Some of his paintings sold for more than a hundred million dollars.

            There were so many letters and paintings that survived with Van Gogh, but there weren’t many letters from his parents and quite a bit from his brother Theo. From those letters that were found, they were turned into books about his life’s history, but there are still parts of his life that are still unknown to the world today.

                                                                  Work cited
Barnes & Noble, “Vincent van Gogh: Early Years” Sparknotes, Accessed November 5, 2014
             PH.D. Strickland, Carol and Boswell, John, “The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in                Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern” Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC 2007,                      November 3, 2014
Templeton Reid, LLC, “The Van Gogh Gallery: Vincent van Gogh: Overview” January 2013                         Templeton Reid, LLC, November 5, 2014