Posthumous Fame Dutch Painter Vincent Van Gogh

About the famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, biography and history of the man who achieved fame after only death.


VINCENT VAN GOGH (1853-1890), Dutch painter

The greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt was a minister's son who felt an intense calling to help the poor. He prepared for the ministry but lost his religious faith when church authorities disciplined him for practicing Christianity too literally by giving away everything he had. As a young man he worked for an art dealer in London and Paris, but he had no formal art training and his own artistic career was concentrated within only the last 10 of his 37 years. In this time he produced almost 600 still lifes, landscapes, and portraits, not including drawings and watercolors, painting at a furious speed in order to capture an effect or mood while it possessed him. He considered his vibrantly pulsating canvases as a simple extension of his preaching vocation. "In a picture I should like to say something as consoling as music," he wrote, aiming to "express hope with a star." Dreading failure but even more terrified of success--"about the worst thing that can happen," he believed--he signed few of his paintings and rejected even the few favorable notices that came his way during his last year. A masochist, he often wallowed helplessly in his sense of his own shortcomings. The psychotic episode in which he spitefully cut off part of his left ear occurred in 1888 while he lived with Paul Gauguin at Arles. These episodes became increasingly frequent and severe, and in 1889 he committed himself to an asylum for a year, where he continued to paint. His name was virtually unknown when, despondent at the prospect of old age and continuing failure, he shot himself at Auvers. Only one painting--The Red Orchard--was ever sold in his lifetime. One-man shows began to exhibit his work in 1892, but his fame dates from the early years of the 20th century, when German Expressionists recognized his entirely new conception of art as a revelation of inner truth.

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