Vincent van Gogh is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating artists the world has known. His passion, the drama of his life, and the intensity with which he approached his art still resonate with many. His work and the stories woven around it continue to inspire and amaze people. In this article, we delve into some intriguing facts about this iconic painter, who was more than just the man who cut off his ear. His life was a complex mix of struggle, creativity, and a deep, often painful quest for understanding and expression.

Jack of all trades

Before Vincent van Gogh fully dedicated himself to art, he had already explored a diverse range of professions. Born on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Van Gogh tried his hand at being an art dealer, schoolteacher, and preacher. These paths brought him little satisfaction. At the age of 27, with hardly any formal training, he decided to declare himself an artist in a letter to his brother Theo.

Models from everyday life

In the early period of his painting career, Van Gogh resorted to painting peasants and agricultural laborers as models. Later, he would move on to painting flowers, landscapes, and self-portraits, mainly because he could not afford models. To further save costs, he often painted over his works instead of buying new canvas.

His early works are characterized by a sober color palette, in which themes of poverty and financial struggle are prominently present. Only later in his career did he begin to use the vibrant colors for which he has become so famous.

A life marked by mental health problems

Van Gogh struggled with mental health problems for most of his life. Evidence suggests manic depression, psychotic episodes, and delusions. He spent a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals. Modern psychiatrists have made various possible diagnoses, including schizophrenia, porphyria, syphilis, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy.

A piece of his ear

It is a well-discussed fact that Van Gogh cut off a piece of his own ear, but it was not the entire ear, as is often claimed. This dramatic event took place in 1888, when Van Gogh and his good friend Paul Gauguin were staying together in Arles. After one of his attacks, Van Gogh attempted to attack Gauguin with a razor, resulting in the cutting off of a piece of his own ear. Van Gogh then wrapped the partially severed ear in paper and gave it to a prostitute in a brothel, a place he and Gauguin frequented.

The famous ‘Starry Night’

Van Gogh painted his most famous work, ‘The Starry Night’, while he was staying in a clinic in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. He had voluntarily admitted himself to recover from the nervous breakdown that had led to the incident with his ear. ‘The Starry Night’ shows the view from his bedroom window in the clinic. Today, this work is part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ironically, Van Gogh himself thought this painting was not good.

Life documented in letters

Van Gogh’s life is extensively documented through hundreds of letters he wrote throughout his life to his brother Theo, his good friend and artist Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, and many others. Although many of these letters are undated, historians have managed to arrange most of the letters chronologically. They form a comprehensive source of information about Van Gogh’s life. More than 600 letters were exchanged between Van Gogh and his brother Theo, telling the story of their lifelong friendship and Van Gogh’s artistic visions and theories.

A productive period

In just ten years, Van Gogh created approximately 2,100 artworks, including about 900 paintings. Many of his works were made in the last two years of his life. The amount of work he produced is remarkable, especially considering the fact that he started as an artist relatively late in life, experienced financial difficulties, struggled with mental health issues, and died at the age of 37. This means he created a new artwork approximately every 36 hours on average.

A tragic end

It is generally believed that Van Gogh shot himself on July 27, 1890, in a wheat field in Auvers, France, where he was painting at the time. After the shooting, he managed to walk back to his lodgings at the Auberge Ravoux, where he was treated by two doctors who could not remove the bullet (no surgeon was available). He died two days later from an infection in the wound. However, this event is controversial as there were no witnesses and no gun was found. An alternative theory suggests he was accidentally shot by teenage boys with whom he had been drinking.

Last words

Theo van Gogh was with his brother when he died and said that Vincent’s last words were: “La tristesse durera toujours” – “the sadness will last forever.” These words reflect the deep pain and struggle Vincent experienced throughout his life, but also his sensitivity and insight into the human condition.

Posthumous recognition

During his lifetime, Van Gogh sold only one painting, but he became famous after his death. ‘The Red Vineyard at Arles’ is the only work he sold during his life, for about 400 francs in Belgium, seven months before his death. After the death of his brother Theo from syphilis, six months after Vincent’s death, Theo’s widow Johanna van Gogh-Bonger inherited a large collection of Vincent’s art and letters. She dedicated herself to assembling the work of her late brother-in-law and actively promoted it, which eventually led to recognition of his work, 11 years after his death. Ironically, despite the financial difficulties and anonymity during his life, Van Gogh created some of the most expensive paintings in history, including ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet’, which sold for $82.5 million in 1990 – equivalent to nearly $200 million in 2024, adjusted for inflation.

Menno, from the Netherlands, is an expert in unearthing fascinating facts and unraveling knowledge. At Top10HQ, he delves into the depths of various subjects, from science to history, bringing readers well-researched and intriguing insights.

Comments are closed.

© 2024 TOP10HQ