Vincent van Gogh

in People

ImageWas there ever a more tortured genius than the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh? He lived in poverty, sold only one painting during his life, and cut off his ear. He created masterpieces of art, yet his life was miserable.


Vincent van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert, The Netherlands, in 1853. He thought he might become a minister like his father. For a time, he preached to poor miners, and then he began to draw them. He was mostly self-taught as an artist.

Van Gogh’s brother Théo was an art dealer in Paris, France. Théo gave Vincent an allowance and was Vincent’s only source of support. In 1886, Vincent went to live with Théo in Paris. In Paris, Vincent saw the bright colors of paintings by the impressionist artists, and he began to paint with bright colors, too.


Van Gogh created self-portraits and paintings of flowers and scenery. His colors became even more brilliant after he moved to southern France in 1888. He portrayed his own room in Bedroom at Arles in bright yellow, blue, and red. However, no one liked his paintings.

No other artist had painted quite like van Gogh. He used vivid color and thick strokes of paint to express his feelings about what he was painting. He didn’t try to copy his subjects accurately. Often his work seems brooding and threatening. His landscapes are full of twisted shapes.

Always moody and restless, van Gogh began showing signs of mental illness in the late 1880s. After an argument with his friend, painter Paul Gauguin, van Gogh cut off part of his own ear. But he never stopped painting. Some of his most beautiful work was done while he was hospitalized for depression. Examples are Starry Night and Crows in a Wheatfield.


Van Gogh died in 1890, after shooting himself. He left behind 750 paintings and 1,600 drawings. Théo van Gogh made sure they stayed safe, and gradually people began to appreciate these works. They became extremely valuable. In 1990, a van Gogh painting sold for $82.5 million. This was the highest price anyone had ever paid for a painting at an art auction. But in 2004, a painting by Pablo Picasso set a new record of $104 million.

 Source: Microsoft ® Encarta