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Gabrielle Pensari

ART 1020 MW @ 12pm
Due: 03/30/16
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh, the son of Reverend Theodorus van Gogh and Anna
Cornelius Carbentus was born on March 30, 1853. He also had five siblings, two of
which were boys. Van Gogh was the closes to his younger brother Theodorus (Theo).
He spent his early life in the Dutch province of North Brabant where his family has been
for many generations.
Van Gogh had an attachment to the natural world since he was a young child. He
began drawing things such as plant life from as early as the age of eleven. His mother
influenced his drawing skills at a young age. However it is not believed that his drawings
that were created at a young age would foreshadow his future artistic career.
During the summer of 1869, Van Gogh went to work for his uncle Vincent as a
junior clerk. It was a French firm of Goupil and Sons. He was recommended by his
uncle to work in The Hague. Van Gogh found himself enjoying the work and was
transferred after four years to the branch that is located in London. Most of the
information about Van Gogh began to be documented beginning around this time. Theo
and him began to correspond via letters in August of 1872 until the end of Van Goghs
Van Gogh was sent out for a three-month assignment to work for the Goupils
Paris gallery during the summer of 1874. Prior to leaving on his assignment, this was

the time that he experienced his first of many heart breaks. He fell in love with his
landladys daughter, Eugenie. He professed his love to her but, found out that she was
already engaged to someone she was willing to devote her life to. Van Gogh was hurled
into a pit of despair before leaving for Paris. After his return to England, he
unsuccessfully tried winning over Eugenie.
He spent the next few years working towards a religious vocation. He took many
courses but found himself failing at every aspect of religious teachings. He was given a
trial run as a missionary in Borinage, but was quickly dismissed for his behavior. After
unsuccessfully attempting to work in the religious profession, he found himself in a
spiritual crisis.
By the fall of 1880, he began drawing the people to whom he had previously
preached to. Van Gogh now believed that his true destiny was to be an artist. He spent
time in Brussels in hopes to learn from local painters and improve his artwork.
After creating tensions within his family, he left again for The Hague. It was in
1882 that he established his first small studio and lived with a prostitute, something that
would become a normal occurrence for Van Gogh. He was surrounded by vast amounts
of artwork while working at the Goupil establishments. This work however was not what
interested him. He found a strong urge to paint the life of peasants and miners. He
wanted to draw compassion from the viewers at the sights of the suffering laborers.
He was able to learn from fellow painters while working at The Hague. His uncle,
Cornelius, tried to help encourage Van Gogh since he was a struggling artist. Cornelius
commissioned Van Gogh to draw a series of city views and other work throughout his
time at The Hague. Theo was the main reason Van Gogh was not living on the streets.

He would send him an allowance in order to keep Van Gogh going. Theo received most
of Van Goghs work throughout the years, especially his greatest works. This may be
because he did not sell a single painting until his last year of life.
It wasnt until the summer of 1883, that he began his work with oil paints. At this
time he had moved back in with his parents. In the next two years he would paint
dozens of countrysides and the people on canvases. In the fall of 1885, Van Gogh
would complete his first major work, The Potato Eaters. It truly showed what the life of
peasants was like during his time. At this time he was using a darkly monochromatic
palette. It wouldnt be until the next year that he would began to brighten his palette.
After completing this work he would write to tell Theo about the painting. He
included that while the painting itself did not take long, and that most of it was from
memory, he had to spend a whole winter painting heads and hands. Van Gogh would
spend much of his time repeatedly working on drawings and paintings of things such as
heads and hands so that he knew it by heart. He would use much of his memory to
work on final paintings, which he did quickly.
During 1886 and 1887, Theo and Van Gogh stayed in an apartment in Paris
together. Their close relationship became strained during those two years. However,
Van Gogh looked at those two years to be a very stable time in his life. Theos tolerance
is speculated to be the reason for Van Gogh being able to grow artistically. While in
Paris, Van Gogh became acquainted with various artist including: Paul Gauguin,
Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, and Emile Bernard. After two years in Paris, Van Gogh
felt that he had used all the possibilities of the city, and need to move somewhere new.
He left abruptly for Arles, a town with a vast amount of artist. He did have hopes that his

new friends in Paris would move with him to Arles, where they could create a school of
In the fall of 1888, Gauguin had finally agreed to visit with Van Gogh. When Van
Gogh became aware that Gauguin was actually coming, he began creating paintings to
decorate the yellow house. Van Gogh painted a series of sunflowers that is now one of
his most well-known works. This was also around the same time that the first signs of
Van Goghs mental illness began to show. During one of his episodes, he pulled a knife
on Gauguin, and threatened him intensely. That same day he cut of his left ear and
gave it to a prostitute named Rachel. Police later found him inside the yellow house,
quickly taking him to the hospital before he would bleed out and die.
After removing his ear, Van Gogh checked himself into an asylum. While staying
in Saint-Remy asylum, he would create his most well-known artwork, The Starry Night,
as well as, many self portraits. Van Gogh was not able to paint or draw for long periods
of time without have psychotic attacks. His mental health varied greatly from optimistic
to suicidal. His mental state is visible in the style of paintings he created while in the
Vincent left Saint-Remy in May of 1890, and traveled back to Paris. He only
stayed with Theo for a few short days before leaving to stay with Dr. Paul Gachet.
Gachet was an art-loving doctor who agreed to take in Van Gogh as a patient. While
staying with Gachet he continued his artistic dream and painting nearly everyday. He
even was able to print an etching on Gachets press. Van Gogh still felt that his life had
been wasted and was distraught about his future.

On July 27, 1890, Van Gogh went out into the fields to do his daily painting. On
this day however, he brought with him a loaded pistol. Van Gogh attempted to commit
suicide by shooting himself in the chest. It is believed that the bullet was deflected by a
rib and passed through his chest without doing any damage to his internal organs, the
bullet was most likely stopped by his spine. He was found bleeding in his bedroom and
was attended by two doctors. Theo quickly rushed to Van Goghs side, when he arrived,
he found Van Gogh smoking a pipe. Van Gogh died two days later in the arms of his
brother at the age of 37.
His brother Theo collected much of Van Goghs work in Paris. Six months after
Van Gogh passed away, Theo had also died. Theos widow collected Van Goghs work,
taking them to Holland where she dedicated herself to getting him the recognition the he
deserved. After she published his work, Van Gogh became famous and has been ever

Van Gogh has always been such an inspiring painter for me. He was also an
inspiration to many artists that followed after him. I remember recreating The
Sunflowers while I was in second grade. I have been in love with his art ever since. He
lived a short, but significant life. Its incredible that his life is so well documented
because of the letters that he wrote with his brother. He describes in such a poetic way
his paintings and life experiences. He was a very intellectual man and a terrific artist. He
wasnt born with the talent, but spent the time to learn from others. Practicing shapes
until he knew them by memory. Its truly unfortunate that he was crippled by his mental
illness, that led him to eventually taking his life. It is very possible that he may not have
been as artistic if it wasnt for his illness. May his legacy live on for all eternity.

Works Cited
Grant, Patrick. The Letters Of Vincent Van Gogh : A Critical Study. Edmonton, Alberta:
Athabasca University Press, 2014. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 21 Mar.
McConnell, C. S. "Vincent Van Gogh." Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia (2015):
Research Starters. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"Vincent Van Gogh" Vincent Van Gogh Gallery. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
"Vincent Van Gogh Biography." The Biography.com Website. A&E Networks Television.
Web. 21 Mar. 2016.