Vincent Willem van Gogh-30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a DutchPost-Impressionistpainter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They includelandscapes,still lifes,portraitsandself-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressivebrushworkthat contributed to the foundations ofmodern art. His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.
Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred toLondon. He turned to religion, and spent time as aProtestantmissionary in southern Belgium. He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881, having moved back home with his parents. His younger brotherTheosupported him financially, and the two kept up along correspondence by letter. His early works, mostlystill lifesand depictions ofpeasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he met members of theavant-garde, includingÉmile BernardandPaul Gauguin, who were reacting against theImpressionistsensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes andlocal landscapes. His paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay inArlesin the south of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include series ofolive trees,wheat fieldsandsunflowers.
Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor, when in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period atSaint-Rémy. After he discharged himself and moved to theAuberge RavouxinAuvers-sur-Oisenear Paris, he came under the care of thehomoeopathicdoctorPaul Gachet. His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died from his injuries two days later.
Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime, and was considered a madman and a failure. He became famous after his suicide, and exists in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist “where discourses on madness and creativity converge”.His reputation began to grow in the early 20th century as elements of his painting style came to be incorporated by theFauvesandGerman Expressionists. He attained widespread critical, commercial and popular success over the ensuing decades, and is remembered as an important but tragic painter, whose troubled personality typifies the romantic ideal of thetortured artist.