Vincent van Gogh, born on March 30, 1853, started drawing at a very young age and was involved in art for most of his life — but he sadly didn’t achieve success until after his tragic death in 1890. Nowadays, his paintings rank among the most famous in the world, and they’re featured in many prestigious museums, including one named after himself, in his home country of the Netherlands. Millions continue to look up to him and his work, amazed by not only his skill but his beautiful way of seeing the world. Today, we celebrate one of the best painters in history.
An Aries from the Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in Zundert. The oldest of six children, Van Gogh was the son of Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Cornelia Carbentus, who named him after some of his father’s family members and ancestors. As a child, his mother encouraged him to draw, nudging him into taking his first step into the world of art.
At 16, his uncle got him a position as an art dealer for Goupil, where he trained and worked until 1873, before he transferred to the dealers’ London branch. But after his transfer to Paris, he began to have issues with the work and was fired. He then became very religious and aspired to be a pastor, but his attempts at becoming one were unsuccessful.
Around 1880, Van Gogh’s brother, Theo van Gogh, advised the young painter to begin pursuing art more seriously and draw the people and scenes that interest him. So Van Gogh enrolled at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. The following year, his second cousin Anton Mauve, a successful artist, took him in as a student and introduced him to watercolor and painting in oil, and lent him money for a studio. He then started painting in oils and was pleased with the results. From 1883 to 1885, Van Gogh began painting in earnest and produced about 200 oil paintings, along with watercolors and drawings. His brother Theo tried to sell his paintings, but he was unsuccessful because the paintings were dark-colored. However, Van Gogh did achieve the first public exhibition of his works in August 1885. The following year, he joined his brother in Paris, where he applied a brighter palette of colors and met many renowned painters. He left the French capital two years later, having completed over 200 paintings during his stay there.
In 1888, he moved to Arles, where the countryside and light inspired him to paint “Van Gogh’s Chair,” “Bedroom in Arles,” and “Sunflowers,” three of his most famous works. Van Gogh started living in the Yellow House, which he intended to portray in his project “Décoration for the Yellow House,” along with French artist Paul Gaugin, who he had met in Paris. However, their relationship deteriorated, and it was around this time that Van Gogh maimed his left ear. He was taken to a hospital, diagnosed with acute mania, and placed under medical care, though he continued to paint during this time. He then left Arles in 1889 and into the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy, where he painted the interiors of the clinic and its garden.
It was during this time that he painted what is considered to be his masterpiece, “The Starry Night,” which depicts the view from his room’s window before sunrise. He also painted his own versions of other artists’ work, as well as reworked some of his earlier paintings, because he didn’t have much access to the outside world while in an asylum.
In 1890, Van Gogh participated in two exhibitions where he received praise for his work, including from renowned painter Claude Monet. In May of the same year, he moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, and became enchanted by its vast wheat fields. Sadly, it was in one of these wheat fields that Van Gogh either shot himself or was shot. The shooting didn’t kill him instantly. But without a surgeon available to remove the bullet, he died 30 hours later, with his brother Theo by his side.
Vincent van Gogh’s work has been showing us a different way of seeing the world for more than a century. His use of color and his expressive brushwork, along with his unique portrayal of the world, characterize his unparalleled style and technique, which has placed him firmly as one of the greatest artists that ever lived. He continues to inspire millions of artists around the world and is studied by renowned scholars.
He gets a position as an art dealer for Goupil & Cie, which serves as his first connection to the world of art.
After many years of directing his attention elsewhere, he decides to pursue his true passion by enrolling in the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts.
Van Gogh’s work is exhibited publicly for the first time by the art dealer Wilhelmus Johannes Leurs.
While living in Montmartre, he meets and works with artists such as Émile Bernard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Gauguin.
The beautiful countryside and the Yellow House, where he lives with Gauguin, inspire him to create some of his most prolific work.
The young artist spends one year in the mental hospital in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, but despite his mental illness, he continues to paint, even producing his most famous painting, “The Starry Night.”
Van Gogh relocates to Auvers-sur-Oise, where he paints his final works before dying at age 37.
Why We Love Vincent van Gogh
He transformed his pain into beauty
Although he faced many issues and challenges in his lifetime, these were never reflected in his paintings. Rather, he decided to paint what he found beautiful, despite the hurt in his life. His ability to do this is what endeared him to many.
He pursued his passion
Despite not initially finding success with his art, Vincent van Gogh continued to paint; he did not give up. He made more than 900 paintings even though he only sold one. His resilience is legendary!
He valued the people around him
Van Gogh had a deep appreciation of his brother Theo, who was there for him through thick and thin. And when he received news of his nephew’s birth, the artist made a painting for him, called “Almond Blossom.” He also painted portraits of Dr. Félix Rey and Dr. Paul Gachet to thank them for their help.
5 Surprising Facts
He only sold one painting
Despite his paintings going for millions of dollars now, Vincent van Gogh himself only sold one painting during his lifetime, “The Red Vineyard.”
He wrote a lot of letters
Most of what we know about his life is taken from his correspondence with his brother Theo.
Almost a thousand paintings in a decade
From 1880 to 1890, van Gogh produced about 900 paintings.
His sister-in-law made him well-known
After he died, his brother’s wife, Johanna van Gogh, took it upon herself to make sure Van Gogh’s work and life story became known.
There’s a musical about him
Among the many cultural depictions of his life, “Starry,” a full-length musical based on Vincent and Theo van Gogh’s life and journey, has been in production since 2017 and is set to premiere in 2023.
Vincent van Gogh FAQs
Why did Vincent van Gogh cut his ear?
To this day, the exact reasons why Van Gogh cut his ear are a mystery. All we know is that it was a very trying time in his life and that he was already suffering from mental health issues.
How much is “The Starry Night” worth?
Van Gogh’s masterpiece, “The Starry Night,” is now valued at more than $100 million.
Who owns Vincent van Gogh's “The Starry Night”?
Currently, the painting is held by the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City.
Vincent van Gogh’s birthday dates