Vincent van Gogh

van Gogh
Self-portrait by van Gogh
    Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) was a Dutch painter, born in Zundert, Brabant. From 16 to 22 he worked as an assistant for branches of the Goupil Galleries in The Hague, London, and Paris. Soon after his arrival in Paris he became interested in religion and in 1877 he began to study for the church. After a short period of instruction at the School for Missionaries in Brussels, van Gogh was sent as a missionary to the mining town of La Borinage in Belgium. In less than two years he was dismissed, because he gave everything he owned to the poor; an act which van Gogh considered true Christianity, but which the church did not. He found solace for his disappointment in theology by sketching the peasants of La Borinage amid their sordid surroundings, using the technique of Millet for his work. In 1880 he returned to The Hague to study under Mauve. By 1885 van Gogh had produced "The Potato Eaters," a powerful charcoal that showed his development from mere illustration to well-composed studies from nature. The same year he entered the Academy at Antwerp, but left in 1886 to join his brother, Theodore, in Paris. There he met the Impressionists and through their influence abandoned the dark browns of the Dutch school and adapted the Impressionists' clear, light colors to his own more intense shades.
    After two years of Paris, he went to Arles where he found contentment for the first time and where he produced the bulk of his work, including such pictures as "L'arlésienne" and "La berceuse." Unfortunately he began to plan an artists' colony and invited Paul Gauguin to visit him. The conflict between the cynical Gauguin and the idealistic van Gogh affected van Gogh's mind. He began to have attacks of insanity so violent that during one of them he cut off his own ear, but in his lucid periods he continued painting and finished such paintings as "Landscape with Cypress Trees" (1889) and his self-portrait with bandaged ear. For some time he was confined in the asylum at St. Rémy near Arles, but in 1890 he was moved to Anvers where he was cared for by his own doctor. Here van Gogh committed suicide.
    One of the first of the Expressionists, he painted with emotional intensity, using an emphatic line and silhouette reminiscent of Japanese prints to attain his effects. His baroque, wavy lines and swirls of color were unified by their textural treatment. Van Gogh achieved these textures through applying pigment directly.