Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a . Welcome to the Van Gogh Gallery, the definitive reference for the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. Get an in-depth look at Van Gogh's biography, paintings.
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Among his masterpieces are numerous self-portraits and the well-known The Starry Night His uncle was a partner in the international firm of picture dealers Goupil and Co. In he was sent to the London branch and fell unsuccessfully in love with the daughter of the landlady. This was the first of several disastrous attempts to find happiness with a woman, and his unrequited passion affected him so badly that he was dismissed from his job. He returned to England in as an unpaid assistant at a school, and his experience of urban squalor awakened a religious zeal and a longing to serve his fellow men.
His father was a Protestant pastor, and van Gogh first trained for the ministry, but he abandoned his studies in and went to work as a lay preacher among the impoverished miners of the grim Borinage district in Belgium. In his zeal he gave away his own worldly goods to the poor and was dismissed for his literal interpretation of Christ's teaching.
He remained in the Borinage, suffering acute poverty and a spiritual crisis, until , when he found that art was his vocation and the means by which he could bring consolation to humanity. The Potato Eaters Kb ; Oil on canvas, From to van Gogh lived in the Netherlands, sometimes in lodgings, supported by his devoted brother Theo, who regularly sent him money from his own small salary.
In keeping with his humanitarian outlook he painted peasants and workers, the most famous picture from this period being The Potato Eaters Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; In van Gogh moved to Antwerp on the advice of Antoine Mauve a cousin by marriage , and studied for some months at the Academy there. Another might be bohemian.
The artists he encountered and identified with included Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat and Emile Bernard, who became almost as loyal a correspondent as Theo. In the event it was the far less giving Gauguin who came to stay. Madness was in the unwholesome air they breathed.
As soon as he felt the southern sun on his back, Van Gogh exploded into genius. All he had learned about art through years of hard work crystallised and he was transfigured. He knew his work was infinitely better than anything he had ever done. He also knew he was discovering a completely new way to use colour to express emotion.
He painted in bursts of ecstatic creativity: a series of orchards, a nightmarish cafe scene, the exterior of the cafe by night. A series of sunflowers whose colours express joy. All this bold experiment, which Van Gogh knew was unprecedented and a different way of seeing, was done at huge risk to his health and sanity.
That is how he tells it in his letters. By the time Gauguin arrived that autumn, Van Gogh was exhausted, ready to break. Not clinically — at least, his illness had not been diagnosed — but what Van Gogh did in his mature paintings was to channel his capacity for overexcitement into a unique onrush of creativity.
What he took from impressionism was the freedom to paint the colours he wanted. And he found he could live and paint for days on end in a storm, an ecstasy, a dream of colour. His heroism was not the depressive struggle of a sane man against an utterly destructive illness that this exhibition chronicles. A less myopic look at his art and letters reveals a much more ambiguous dealing with his own dark side.
He had a capacity for getting carried away. When he put this into art he created paintings that carry us all away. In the process he drove himself mad. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Art and design. Van Gogh Painting Exhibitions Museums features.