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Vincent van Gogh: The Dutch Icon of Post-Impressionism

By Vincent van Gogh - mwF3N6F_RfJ4_w at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, Link

Articulating the inner spirituality of man and nature through the impulsive, gestural application of paint and symbolic colors, and producing dramatic, imaginative, rhythmic, and emotional canvases that convey far more than the mere appearance of the subject, the Dutch Pos-Impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, is revered as the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt and one of the greatest of the Post-Impressionists.

The most famous and influential figure in the history of Western art, Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. In 1869, he took his first job, working in the Hague branch of an international art dealing firm. He began to write to his younger brother Theo, a correspondence which continued for the rest of his life.

Van Gogh’s job took him to London and Paris, but he was not interested in the work and was dismissed in 1876. He briefly became a teacher in England, and then, deeply interested in Christianity, a preacher in a mining community in southern Belgium. In 1880, at the age of 27, he decided to become an artist. He moved around, teaching himself to draw and paint and receiving financial support from Theo, who helped him get a studio in The Hague and paid for painting classes with Anton Mauve.

Mauve notably introduced Van Gogh to one of his most profound influences, Jean-Francois Millet. It was Millet’s paintings of peasants that led the artist to move to Nuenen, Netherlands, where he began portraying farmers and poor laborers in dark Rembrandt-like tones. In 1886, he joined his brother Theo in Paris and met many artists including Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro, and Gauguin, with whom he became friends.

In Paris, Van Gogh was introduced to Impressionism and soon lightened his palette and adopted the stylizations found in Japanese woodblock prints. He painted a large number of self-portraits in this period. In 1888, he moved to Provence in southern France, where he painted his famous series “Sunflowers”. He invited Gauguin to join him, and they together spent nine weeks in Arles. During this time, both of them began to quarrel and one night, Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor. Deeply remorseful he then cut off part of his own ear.

This was the first serious sign of the mental health problems that were to afflict Van Gogh for the rest of his life. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals and swung between periods of inertia, depression and incredibly concentrated artistic activity, his work reflecting the intense colours and strong light of the countryside around him.

A prolific painter, Van Gogh produced over 2, 100 works in little more than a decade. The artist died at the age of 37 o July 29, 1890, in Auvers-sur-Oise, France from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Today, his works are featured in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam which is entirely dedicated to his oeuvre.


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