The Man Behind the Painting: Vincent van Gogh

The Man Behind the Painting: Vincent van Gogh

A Self-portrait painted by the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh


When we think about Vincent van Gogh our mind instantly leaps towards the words “amazing painter”, “genius” and “artist known in the whole world.” But, who was really Vincent van Gogh? Was he a brilliant painter that lived his life in mediocrity because no one else saw the beauty of his paintings? A mad man, suffering from anxiety? A genius who committed suicide? During his lifetime the painter sent about 800 letters to his friends and family. Thanks to these letters we can now form a general impression about the man who was Vincent van Gogh.

Nowadays, Vincent Willem van Gogh is known now as one of the most brilliant artists of all times. His paintings can be found in museums all over the world. Some of them are in European countries and some in American cities like Los Angeles. His works, alongside those of Pablo Picasso, are among the most expensive paintings in the world. In the 1990s, one of his self-portraits was estimated at approximately $90 million, an incredibly big sum at that time. His works, though unappreciated at the time he painted them, became inspirational for the artists that came after him. Moreover, the history of his life is now taught in Dutch schools.

A famous picture, De sterrennacht by Vincet Van Gogh

The artist grew up as the son of a pastor. As a young child he was shy and lacked self-confidence. His early workplaces were a disappointment. He was dismissed from them due to overzealousness. It wasn’t until 1883 that he truly devoted himself to painting, although his works attracted little attention. His early works are more somber and sharper lit than the rest, but as time passed their colors became bolder and their messages more dramatic.

By 1886 he had joined his brother in Paris. It was then that his mental state started deteriorating. He became nervous and hard to reason with. By 1888 his rapidly declining health got him caught between states of lucidity and fits of madness. He was sent to an asylum, but he never stopped painting. One of his most famous works, “Starry night” was painted in the asylum. In 1890 he started getting better. He was released from the asylum and settled down in Auvers-sur-Oise. Two months later he was found shot in his home. Although it is believed the wound was self-inflicted the gun was never found. Van Gogh did not die instantly; he lived another two days. His last words were “la tristesse durera toujours” meaning “the sadness will last forever.”

The greatest works of Vincent van Gogh were created during a three year period. Moreover, his entire career spanned about ten years. During this time he made 900 paintings and 1100 sketches. He never signed his works Vincent van Gogh, preferring only Vincent. It is said that this particular preference was due to the fact that people often misspelled his last name, calling him van Gof.

He remains famous for his emotional honesty, his symbolism and his bold and dramatic colors. Despite all this, he never knew his works were true pieces of art. Did you know that Vincent van Gogh, during his brief career, only sold one painting, called “The Red Vineyard”?

( Source: Van Gogh Gallery and Wikipedia )

Starry Night Over the Rhone, a famous painting drawn by Vincent van Gogh

Remi Koene
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