Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous artists who ever lived. Interestingly enough, however, while his fame began to grow within the art world in the late 1880s, he wasn’t that well-known in life. Perhaps he didn’t live long enough to achieve major status while living. Born in the Netherlands village of Groot-Zundert in 1853, van Gogh died at the age of 37. Common belief has it that the gunshot that led to his death was self-inflicted, though this is not known for sure. What is known, however, is that the artist’s surviving works can go for a pretty penny. In fact, the paintings of Vincent van Gogh figure among the world’s most expensive ever sold.
Van Gogh - Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh was the son of a pastor, and as such, he grew up in a rather religious and cultured environment. This didn’t exactly lead to high levels of self-confidence and happiness, however. As a youth, van Gogh was known to be highly emotional and lacking in self-assurance. He was also serious, thoughtful, and often silent. In a letter to his brother Theo in 1883, Vincent wrote, "My youth was gloomy and cold and sterile." In those miserable early years, however, van Gogh developed an interest in art. This interest lingered into adulthood, and between the 1860s and 1880s, van Gogh ultimately made the push to become an artist. This decision may have been encouraged in part by his other failings. It was also between the 1860s and 1880s that van Gogh had two unhappy romances and could not find much success working as a bookstore clerk, an art salesmen, and a preacher.
As far as being an artist was concerned, van Gogh’s career essentially began in The Hague in the early 1880s. After a fallout with a former supporter who was to help him build a studio, Vincent was commissioned by his uncle Cornelius to produce ink drawings of The Hague. The rest, you might say, is history. The emerging artist would go on to spend time in the Dutch city of Nuenen and Belgian city of Antwerp, the French capital of Paris, and the southern France city of Arles. It was in Arles that van Gogh famously cut off a piece of his left ear with a razor. This act was in response to his perceived abandonment by friend and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin. In 1889, van Gogh committed himself to a hospital in Saint-Remy. Though he was mentally fragile, he painted some of his best-known works while in Saint-Remy. He then moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, where his mental state only worsened. It was in this Paris suburb that he died on July 29, 1890. He is buried there next to his brother Theo.
Van Gogh Paintings
Early works by Vincent van Gogh come in the form of drawings and watercolors. Few of these works survive, and they are hard to verify on the whole. His first masterpieces are drawings of single figures that are done in black and white. In the early 1880s, he began working on multi-figure drawings, but ultimately decided to turn to oil painting after his brother criticized these works. Among the most famous of his early oil paintings is The Potato Eaters. This work was completed in 1885 and is on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. This same museum houses the world’s largest collection of van Gogh paintings and drawings and is the most visited museum in the Netherlands. Several other museums around the world also display works by Vincent van Gogh. Examples include the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, to name a few. Among the works that are exhibited at these institutions are self-portraits. Van Gogh is well-known for his portraits and self-portraits, just as he is for his landscapes. Among his most renowned landscapes is The Starry Night. Many art enthusiasts actually consider this painting to be van Gogh’s "magnus opus." Since 1941, it has been in the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.