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The Art History of Vincent Van Gogh

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Self Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh

March 30th marks the birth of the great painter Vincent Van Gogh.Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zundert, Holland. During the brief 10 years that Van Gogh pursued painting he produced some 900 paintings and 1100 drawings.  Though he had little success during his lifetime his status as an artist has been compared to the likes of Rembrandt.

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Van Gogh was taught drawing in middle school by a successful artist from Paris. Although he excelled in the subject he found the boarding school “gloomy…cold and sterile…” He immediately dropped out of school and returned home. His Uncle persuaded him to take a job with a local art dealer in London where he was successful for a time later commenting it was the “happiest year of his life.” However after accepting a 2nd transfer to the Paris office he became notably displeased with his situation and was shortly thereafter terminated.

Cafe Terrace at Night (1888)

Van Gogh had thought to become a Pastor like his father and in May 1877  left for Amsterdam to study Theology. Religion would later prove to be an unsuitable profession for the emotional Van Gogh. After he failed the Theology exam he took a position as a missionary in a coal mining village in Belgium. He was later released for being “too overzealous.” The church authorities felt his choice of living conditions undermined the church. All was not lost for while Van Gogh was in Belgium he spent much of his time drawing portraits of the villagers. After his dismissal he lingered for a spell in Belgium working on his drawings.

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The Red Vineyard was the only painting Van Gogh sold.

In 1886 Van Gogh traveled to Paris at the behest of his parents and brother Theo. Theo, the manager of Goupil’s gallery, was so impressed by Vincent’s drawings he convinced Van Gogh to study with the accomplished Willem Roelofs. Willem was dissatisfied with Van Gogh’s dark somber palette and recommended he attend the Royal Academy of Art. Van Gogh would later be influenced in the art of Impressionism by greats such as Cormon, Pissarro, Monet and Gauguin.

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Starry Night was the only work he managed to produce while checked into the Insane Asylum at Saint Remy in 1889.
The Blossoming Almond Tree painted in the Saint Remy asylum 1890 a few months before his death. The piece was dedicated to Theo's newborn baby, Vincent.
The Blossoming Almond Tree painted in the Saint Remy asylum 1890 a few months before his death was dedicated to Theo's newborn baby, Vincent.

Unfortunately Van Gogh was plagued with mental illness that ultimately lead to his demise. SadlyVan Gogh only sold one painting while alive. His fame would not come until eleven years after his death at a gallery showing in his name organized by his widow Johanna Gesina Bonger van Gogh. After the death of Van Gogh Johanna actively began collecting all his letters and artworks.  It was her hard work  and dedication that brought about the recognition Van Gogh so rightly deserved.

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Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather

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On March 30th we pay tribute to the remarkable artist Vincent Van Gogh was.

  • Visit an art museum.
  • Make a Sunflower Cake.
  • Plant Sunflowers.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Take the night off to star gaze.
  • Make a craft, draw or paint one of your favorite Van Gogh pieces. For inspiration visit the Van Gogh Gallery to view all 2000 works of art.