Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most popular artists of the 18th century. Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in the village of Groot Zudert, Netherlands. Vincent’s parents were Theodoros Van Gogh and Anna Carbentus. He also had five brothers and sisters. Anna and Theo were named after his mother and father. The rest of the family was Elizabeth, Withelmein, and Cornelius.
Van Gogh began to get a job in Ramsgate School as an assistant teacher in 1876 with a payment of $10.00 a month. After not getting a salary at all Van Gogh left for Holland in December of 1876. There he worked in a bookstore in Dordrecht where he also failed as a minister. In 1878, Van Gogh moved to a Belgian coal-mining area as a preacher. Although Vincent was a failure, he began to draw his hardest.
In 1881 Vincent met up with his parents in Etten, Holland. Van Gogh was familiar with Etten because he grew up in the countryside. In the painting which was called Sower, he expressed his feelings about what it was like there. One thing in the countryside that he enjoyed was the animal life. Etten was one place where he could actually express his feelings in pictures because he grew up in the plains. Another painting he painted there was Girl In a Wood. It was painted with water colors and lots of texture.
Two years later Van Gogh wandered off to Drenthe. Drenthe was full of landscapes (which Vincent loved because they were interesting to draw). He worked his hardest plowing the fields with hardly any materials. Vincent spent hours wandering around the countryside drawing sketches of what was in front of him.
Time went on, he began to feel isolated and worried about the future. Drenthe was a lonely place so he began to write letters to his brother, Theo. He wrote 20 letters in 11 weeks. Some were full of nonsense and others were incredibly detailed. He decided to rent an attic of a house but was depressed, miserable, and everything was too boring. After getting completely fed up, he couldn’t stay any longer, so he left for his parents’ new house in Nuenen.
Six months after his father’s death in Nuenen in 1885, Van Gogh had painted his Bible. Knowing that his father, Theodores Van Gogh, was a religious man, it would have made him very happy. Vincent was sad with Christianity after his father’s death because it was one of the most painful times of his life. Van Gogh was having a hard time because not many people had ever died in his family. Vincent’s relationship with his father was really close and it was hard to let go of that relationship.
The "Potato Eaters" was Van Gogh’s favorite painting that he painted. It was also his most popular painting he sold because of the texture he put into it. He painted it in April 1885. These peasants had just finished their daily work and were now enjoying a peaceful meal, the potatoes of their garden. The colors he used in this painting are black, olive green, raw umber, pale ochre, and raw sienna. Van Gogh tried to make the people look like they were poor and hungry by making their hands and faces look dirty in this painting. They also worked so hard for what they had. Vincent finished the painting on May 6, 1885 in Nuenen.
Van Gogh left for Antwerp shortly after his father’s death. He mainly left to find new subject matter. His great ideas in Nuenen had made him prepared and happy to try new things. Van Gogh was excited to meet new artists in Antwerp. His first idea was to try to make money painting portraits and designing town statues. Then he decided to become a member of the Antwerp Academy. Van Gogh enrolled in Antwerp Academy in January of 1886. He had just finished paintings for his town. Vincent was different from many other students. He liked doing things his own way. In fact, Van Gogh was put in the beginners’ class since he didn’t paint in a traditional way. The class was transferred to Paris, France.
Vincent arrived in Paris in March of 1886. His brother, Theo, had not expected him to be there until June. Life was going to be different in Paris, especially since he was moving in with Theo. Van Gogh was assigned to go to the studio of Fernard Corman for his sketching. After this he declared that he felt more "himself." He spent two years going his own way to find his true path.
Sunflowers became Van Gogh’s interest while in Paris. A few artists had drawn them before but none were as good as Van Gogh’s masterpieces. He also started painting his sunflowers in Arles not only for decoration but for Paul Gauguin’s arrival, too. The Sunflowers was also one of Van Gogh’s best paintings. The brightness of the yellow gave the painting a very decorative look. Vincent could express everything dear to him in his sunflower paintings.
In autumn of 1887 after he finished his wonderful painting of sunflowers Van Gogh decided to mainly paint fruit. This picture he painted was of lemons, pears, apples, grapes, and an orange. The colors he used were chrome yellow, cadmium yellow, chrome orange, vermilion, and red ochre. These colors could be seen for decoration or remembering Van Gogh’s interest in different colors.
Finally, Van Gogh left Paris heading towards the south of France in February of 1888, settling in the capital of Arles. At first glance Van Gogh was full of hope knowing that the people in Arles were more into art then the people of the north. Vincent painted all he could, especially his few friends and his landlady, Madam Ginoux. He even painted the café where he stayed.
In late October of 1888 Van Gogh persuaded Paul Gauguin to join him in Arles. Together they designed and talked about the work of impressionism art. Although there were disagreements, there were still solutions. Van Gogh could see that Gauguin wanted to paint from imagination rather then from nature. In early December, Van Gogh discovered an illness that he had hidden from Gauguin. On December 23rd Vincent chopped off part of his ear and gave it to a local girl. Still, Van Gogh was seriously ill (more than anyone had realized).
If Vincent did not recover from this terrible illness soon, Theo, Gauguin, and his few friends would feel really bad and put him in the hospital because he wasn’t recovering. The Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear was a painting of him after he had cut off his ear and gave it to that local girl. The colors he used in this painting are prussian blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine, zinc white, vermilion, and red lake. Van Gogh had painted this painting after 2 weeks of pain. After finding out that he was still alive, Van Gogh finally showed himself in public calmly.
Van Gogh’s terrible illness was not recovering. He became a voluntary patient in the insane asylum at St. Remy Hospital in May of 1889. Recent doctors said he was dying of the disease porphyria. Porphyria is an oxygen-carrying pigment in the red blood cells that can keep people from running, walking, and other things that involve movement. Other pains kept him from traveling with Theo and other people. This pigment also made it hard to breathe.
Another possible illness Van Gogh could have had was Epilepsy. Epilepsy is when your blood muscles act as if anything but normal. It first starts when the brain cells let out electrical energy. Epilepsy usually happens when you are a child, but it was different for Vincent. Three different types of Epilepsy Van Gogh could have had include grand mal, peitit mal, and psychomotor. grand mal is the most serious which can make you faint and be unconscious. Peitit epilepsy is when someone stares blank, forgetting their surroundings, and psychomotor epilepsy makes you want to be alone for a couple of minutes and then go back by people like nothing happened.
At St. Remy Hospital, the garden of flowers made Van Gogh think that he had to make the colors sing in his next painting. During the first two weeks he had painted 2 paintings, one of irises and the other of lilacs. It was easy for him to picture violet- blue colors with an animated form. He tried to paint the irises like a thrilling flower. Van Gogh seemed to think the flowers looked like a public celebration.
In January of 1889 Van Gogh received the news that Theo, who was now married, had a baby boy that he named after Vincent. Van Gogh was touched, though his illness had gone too far and he was exhausted and tired. Finally in 1890 he committed suicide. Vincent Van Gogh died on July 29th, 1890.
Bernard, Bruce. Van Gogh. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999.
Veniezia, Mike. Van Gogh. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1988.
Friedman, Ann. "Artists," The World Book Encyclopedia, 2001.