Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in the small town of Zundert located in the Netherlands. His father, Theodorus, was a minister, and his mothers’ name was Anna. Vincent was the oldest of six children. He had two brothers, one named Theo and another named Cor. In addition, he had three sisters named Wil, Elisabeth, and Anna. Before Vincent was born, his parents had a child who was also named Vincent but was stillborn. In grief, they buried the child near the house that they lived in. As a result, Vincent had to grow up near a haunting grave with his name on it. Not a lot of information is known about his childhood education but his mother did encourage him to draw and paint as a child and teenager.
Van Gogh’s education had a big impact on his life. In 1869, when he was sixteen years old, his uncle got him a job as a trainee at The Hague (Dutch government). After a decent amount of time there, he went off to work in London and Paris offices. When he thought that he had found a suitable partner in London of 1874, he was rejected by her and his life darkened from there on out. After the rejection, Vincent wrote a letter to his brother consisting of a list of his top 56 favorite artists. The majority of them were realists. Of those top 56, there was his lifelong influence, Jean-François Millet. Millet is the artist who influenced all of van Gogh’s paintings of peasant life.
In 1876, he worked briefly as a school teacher in England and at a bookstore in the Netherlands. He moved to Southern Belgium two years later to work as a lay preacher (someone who is not yet allowed to conduct a mass) and study at a missionary school to follow in his father’s footsteps. It was until then, when he saw the people working in the mines, that he felt sympathy and made himself get rid of all his belongings and live his life in poverty. The church saw this action as undignified and dismissed him in 1879. After this incident, he decided that he wanted to be a full-time artist. When 1880 came along, he wanted to meet a female artist named Jules Breton; he was supposedly going to ask her about a few tips. He walked 43 miles to meet her but got too scared to talk to her. He turned around on her doorstep and headed back home. When he returned home, he enrolled at the Brussels Art Academy where he studied Anton van Rappard and his views on perspective and 3-D. After about a year there, he returned back to The Hague where he then studied Anton Mauve. Vincent then enrolled in the Art Academy in Antwerp in 1885 but thought that their teaching methods were unsuitable and moved in with his brother, Theo, in an apartment.
After some time together, Theo noticed that Vincent’s mood swings were a lot like having different personalities and in 1889, Vincent admitted himself into an asylum. This is where he met Dr. Paul Gachet. He said that he liked Paul because he was disorganized with his doctor work just like he was with his paintings. During that first year at the asylum, van Gogh lost the majority of his left ear. There are numerous theories on why this happened but a few are that he cut it off and sent it to one of the maidens who denied his affection; he got into an argument with a professional fencer named Gauguin and he cut it off with a sword; and finally, Vincent had a form of epilepsy and during one of his episodes, he was holding a blade and he accidently cut it off. In 1890, van Gogh threatened Dr. Gachet with a pistol because he had become outraged by the fact that he hadn’t hung up some of the paintings that he created. Later that year, he received news from his brother saying that he was going to move back to the Netherlands with his wife and child. Vincent became very upset at the thought of being alone again and went out to a field near their house and shot himself in the chest. Surprisingly, the bullet didn’t kill him and he walked back to the house and into his bedroom. It wasn’t until later that night when the innkeeper found him bleeding to death. They called a doctor but it was said that they couldn’t do anything for him because the bullet had lodged into his spine. After two days, he died in his brother’s arms. On the other hand, there is another theory saying that a teenager accidently shot him but van Gogh felt like the boy helped him by pulling the trigger and ending his suffering so he didn’t blame the kid in his letters.
About a year after Vincent’s death, his brother was putting together an art show of all of his work, but then died of bronchitis. Theo’s wife, Jo, then decided to finish her husband’s work and because of her, Vincent van Gogh is known world-wide today. Most of his work could be categorized into impressionism and realism. He produced 800 oil paintings, 700 drawings, and at least 650 letters were sent to his brother, Theo van Gogh.
Clearly, Vincent van Gogh may have had a rough life, but he left a great legacy behind. His life was that way for a reason, and maybe he didn’t receive the recognition he deserved while he was alive, but if it wasn’t for him, art would not be the same today.