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The Life and Legacy of Vincent van Gogh: An In-Depth Look at the Tormented Genius

Full Name Vincent Willem van Gogh
Birthday March 30, 1853
Birthplace Zundert, Netherlands
Death Date July 29, 1890
Movement Post-Impressionism
Notable Works The Starry Night, Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters
Social Profiles Twitter


As one of history‘s most celebrated artists, Vincent van Gogh‘s expressive paintings have captivated art enthusiasts like myself for generations. His tragic life story and revolutionary painting style also make him an endlessly fascinating figure. In this comprehensive post, I‘ll provide an in-depth look at Van Gogh‘s life, artwork, legacy and the tormented genius behind some of the world‘s most iconic paintings.

Overview of Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter born on March 30, 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands. Though he only became a serious artist in his late 20s, in just over a decade Van Gogh created around 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings like The Starry Night and Sunflowers.

Van Gogh struggled with poverty and mental illness throughout his life. He suffered from psychotic episodes and depression, and famously cut off part of his own left ear during an argument with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. After years of hardship, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest at age 37 and died two days later.

Despite not achieving fame during his lifetime, Van Gogh‘s influence on modern art is immense. His thickly painted canvases with swirling brushstrokes and bold colors inspired later Expressionists. Today he is widely regarded as one of history‘s greatest painters. His artworks fetch tens of millions of dollars at auction.

Early Life and Family

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born exactly one year to the day after a stillborn brother who had also been named Vincent. He was the oldest living son of Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Cornelia Carbentus. Van Gogh grew up in a religious and cultured environment. His father was a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church and his mother was dedicated to charity work and art appreciation.

From a young age, Vincent was serious, silent and thoughtful. He also showed a talent for drawing, which his mother encouraged. Vincent was very close to his younger brother Theo van Gogh, an art dealer who later supported Vincent‘s work as an artist.

Road to Becoming an Artist

Though it‘s hard to imagine now, Van Gogh did not actually become a serious artist until his late 20s. As a young man he tried various careers including working as an art dealer at Goupil & Co., a teacher in England, and a missionary preacher in Belgium.

But in 1880, at age 27, he finally embarked on the path to becoming an artist – no doubt realizing it was his true calling. With Theo‘sfinancial support, Vincent began taking drawing lessons. He started out copying prints and studying anatomy.

The Turning Point – In 1886, Vincent left the Netherlands forever and moved to Paris, where his world was opened up by the revolutionary Impressionists. He saw vibrant new possibilities for using color and brushstrokes. Inspired, he began lightening his palette and experimenting with his painting technique.

Over the next decade Van Gogh developed his signature style: thick, rhythmic brushstrokes, bright unnatural colors and emotional distortion.

Most Important Periods

Van Gogh‘s work can be divided into key periods that show his artistic development:

Early Dark Works

  • Somber and gloomy paintings depicting peasants, miners and laborers
  • Earthy, muted color palette of browns, greys & dark greens
  • Empathetic portrayal of the poor

Key Painting: The Potato Eaters (1885)

Paris (1886-88)

  • Exposure to Impressionist and modern art
  • Lighter colors like reds, pinks and light blues emerge
  • Paints local scenes like cafes, bridges and flower markets

Key Painting: Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat (1886)

Arles, France (1888-89)

  • Rented the iconic "Yellow House" and painted prolifically here
  • Intense period of creativity experimenting with complementary colors and short brushstrokes
  • Created many iconic paintings like The Yellow House and The Starry Night

Key Painting: The Bedroom (1888)

Saint-Rémy, France (1889-90)

  • Admitted himself to an asylum after mutilating his ear
  • Continued to paint masterpieces like The Starry Night and paint self-portraits
  • Used painting as comfort during mental attacks

Key Painting: The Starry Night (1889)

The Legacy of Vincent Van Gogh

Despite only becoming a painter at 27 and dying 10 years later, Van Gogh revolutionized art with his unique painting style. He had an enormous impact on 20th century art movements like Expressionism, Fauvism and abstract art.

Though virtually unknown when he died, his fame grew massively over the 20th century. Major exhibitions were held showcasing his distinctive works. Art historians wrote books praising his contribution. Pop culture further popularized his iconic images.

Today Vincent Van Gogh is known globally as a tragic genius and one of history‘s greatest artists. His masterpieces like The Starry Night and Sunflowers are among the world‘s most beloved and expensive artworks. Collectively, Van Gogh‘s art depicts the world as he felt it – intensely.

For true art fans like myself, Van Gogh will always be the quintessential painter of intense emotions. His self-portraits, landscapes and still lifes give us an intimate glimpse at his inner turmoil and his extraordinary way of seeing the world.