Vincent Willem van Gogh, 1853 - 1890
Self-portrait (September 1889)
Born: 30 March 1853, Groot-Zundert, Netherlands
Died: 29 July 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise, France
Vincent was the son of a preacher, but his unstable emotions and lack of self-confidence lead him to fail at several careers and two romances before he chose to become an artist. His early works, done shortly after his training in Belgium, were very much genre works, with a dark palette and sharp lighting. He left Belgium for Paris in 1886, where his brother Théo managed a gallery, studied with Cormon, and met Pissarro, Monet, and Gauguin. Their influence led him to lighten his palette and paint in short, Impressionistic brush strokes. Unfortunately, between his nervous temperament and night-long discussions, his health suffered and he decided to go south to Arles, where he hoped that the others would follow and help him found an art school. Gauguin did in fact follow him, but it was a disaster. In 1888, Gauguin left Arles, and Van Gogh pursued him with an open straight razor. Gauguin stopped him, but while they struggled, Van Gogh sliced part of his own earlobe off.
This trauma triggered massive swings between madness and lucidity, and he was sent to the asylum of Saint-Remy for treatment. He seemed to improve and by May 1890, he was released to live in Auvers-sur-Oise. Two months later, he shot himself, "for the good of all." Van Gogh's life was short, and his best works were produced in the last three years of his life, but his works, such as Starry Night, Wheat Field With Cypresses, and Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, are now among the most valuable paintings.
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Vincent van Gogh quotes:
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- A good picture is equivalent to a good deed. permalink
- A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke. permalink
- Ah! Portraiture, portraiture with the thought, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come. permalink
- An artist needn't be a clergyman or a churchwarden, but he certainly must have a warm heart for his fellow men. permalink
- Art demands constant observation. permalink
- As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed. permalink
letter to Theo in The Letters of Vincent van Gogh to His Brother, 1872-1886 (1927)
- Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all. permalink
- But are not this struggle and even the mistakes one may make better, and do they not develop us more, than if we kept systematically away from emotions? permalink
- But for one's health as you say, it is very necessary to work in the garden and see the flowers growing. permalink
- Conscience is a man's compass, and though the needle sometimes deviates, though one often perceives irregularities when directing one's course by it, one must still try to follow its direction. permalink
- Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model. permalink
- Don't forget that little emotions are the great captains of our lives. permalink
- Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again. permalink
- Exaggerate the essential, leave the obvious vague. permalink
- Gauguin says that when sailors have to move a heavy load or raise an anchor, they all sing together to keep them up and give them vim. That's just what artists lack! permalink
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