Biography of Vincent van Gogh | Dutch painter. In the final decades of the 19th century.

(Groot-Zundert, Netherlands, 1853 - Auvers-sur-Oise, France, 1890) Dutch painter. In the final decades of the 19th century, the Impressionist marked the beginning of a profound renewal of the Visual Arts that would have continuity in the succession of ISMS or currents of contemporary art. Some of the best teachers in this period, however, can not being enclosed in any school, and opened by itself alone new paths; among them, the Dutchman Van Gogh occupies a unique position.

Detail of a self-portrait of 1890
Embodiment of the tortured and misunderstood, artist Van Gogh did not sell more than one of those hundreds of pictures who currently reach exorbitant prices at auctions. The recognition of his work did not begin until a year after his death, as a result of a retrospective organized by the Salon des Independants; Today, Van Gogh is considered unanimously one of the great geniuses of modern painting. Its production exerted a decisive influence on all the art of the 20th century, especially in fauvism and Expressionism; and after more than one century of artistic experiments, the brushwork crude and tormented by the Dutch artist, powered by the force of his internal passion, retains all its fascinating emotional strength.
Vincent van Gogh was the eldest of the six children of a Protestant pastor, and remained with his brother Theo, four years younger than him, a relationship that would be determinant in their existence and in his artistic career. The correspondence that both exchanged throughout their lives bears witness to the intimacy of this relationship and the passions and human and creative anxieties that torment to Van Gogh in his last years. After a careful education at private boarding school, at the age of sixteen entered as Apprentice at the Hague of the Paris Gallery Goupil, a company founded by his uncle Vincent art dealers.
In 1873 it became a branch of the Goupil Gallery in London, where there was for the first of his romantic failures; in 1875 he was transferred to the subsidiary Parisian; in 1876 he said goodbye and returned to Holland. He then worked as a Professor, a Methodist Minister and a library Clerk; Assistant None of these jobs will last you long. At the time I felt especially the spiritual need to surrender to his fellow men; in fact, I had always wanted to be a pastor, like his father, and such vocation led him to Amsterdam to continue the studies of theology, which suspended.
He then went on to the school of evangelization practice in Brussels, and in 1878 he was sent by his superiors to the mining area of the Borinage. Established in the village of Pâturages, near Mons, he made a series of drawings of the miners. The school of evangelization expelled him for his excessive involvement: impressed by their inhumane hardship, Van Gogh arrived to give the miners what little they had and to live more poorly than they.
Contact with such misery and desolation undermined their faith, and Van Gogh spent this spiritual crisis wandering through France and Belgium and by writing to his brother Theo, he was now his old job at Goupil's Paris Gallery. Encouraged by Theo, in 1880 he decided to devote himself to painting and went to Brussels, where he met the painter Anthon Van Rappard (with whom he would maintain a long relationship) and carried out the first copies of Millet.
After another sentimental failure with his cousin Kate, he met a prostitute called Sien, whose misfortunes awoke his always infinite compassion. In 1882 he lived in Schenkweg Sien and their children, who took over; He continued drawing, and made his first paintings. After discovering Theo his relationship with Temple, broke with her at the behest of his brother and went to the North, where he remained until the end of 1883. He then went to Nuenen, where again approached his family and painted feverishly; his first canvases of importance are those two years (1884-1885). Paintings like the potato eaters (1885), different representations of weavers and heads and figures of peasants, along with countless drawings, form the set of works of this stage of training.
In 1886 he met his brother in Paris; There, in the artistic capital of Europe, contact with Impressionism visibly reoriented its style. Related to the Impressionists and postimpressionists at the shop of colors of the "Père Tanguy" (who painted the famous portrait) and discovered the Japanese art. His brother presented to Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat and Paul Gauguin; He also met Toulouse-Lautrec and Émile Bernard, and under this new environment would lead to the definition of his painting. His palette became definitely clear and colourful and its less traditional compositions, giving form to his personal vision of post-impressionism.

Van Gogh Painting sunflowers (1888), by Paul Gauguin
The advice of his brother and his interest in color and capturing nature induced him to move in February 1888 to Arles, in the sunny Provence, where his work was increasingly expressing more clearly their feelings about what is represented and their own moods. He worked intensely, painted most of its most renowned and pure fabrics and wrote its pages clear and deep. But the loneliness was unbearable, and with the purpose of forming a collective workshop, Van Gogh rented a house where invited artists with whom it shared interests.
At his urging, Paul Gauguin was installed in the "Yellow House" (so named for the color of its walls) in October 1888, but the relationship was becoming more and more difficult by the strong temperament of both. In the course of a discussion, Van Gogh arrived to attack Gauguin with a razor; then repented of that boot, cut the ear lobe to atone for his guilt and did get to Gauguin, who, far from moved to that show of contrition, judged him as a dangerous madman that had no intention of living together. Of this confusing lance (as there are other versions of the same) two famous self-portraits of the artist with a bandaged ear; attest appears on the second of them wistfully smoking his pipe, self-absorbed and gloomy.

Self-portrait with pipe and cut ear (1889)
After the departure of Gauguin, Theo visited him and made that you enter in the Arles hospital. In May 1889, fearing to lose their ability to work, he asked to be admitted to the psychiatric hospital of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where he stayed for twelve months. Also in this period, Van Gogh painted intensely; After suffering several attacks and unable to go outside, carried out work related to the hospital, portraits of physicians and reinterpretations of works by Rembrandt, Delacroix and Millet. The loss of contact with reality and a progressive sense of sadness are the keys of this period, during which developed a style based on dynamic forms and the vigorous use of the line, which was a bold and visionary than the Arles painting.
Without getting to overcome the State of melancholy and loneliness was, in May 1890 he moved to Paris to visit his brother Theo. By this Council he traveled to Auvers-sur-Oise, where he underwent a homeopathic treatment by the doctor and amateur painter Paul-Ferdinand Gachet. In this small village he portrayed the landscape and its inhabitants, trying to capture his spirit. His style evolved formally towards a paint more expressive and lyrical, vague shapes and bright colors.

The siesta (1890)
Despite the fact that a few months later the doctor Gachet was considered that he was fully healed, mood did not improve; beset by feelings of guilt due to the dependency of his brother Theo and his failure as an artist, his spirit was inevitably disturbed by an inconsolable sadness. On July 27, 1890, in the silence of the fields under the Sun, Van Gogh, descerrajó shot in the chest; He died two days later, without having fulfilled the thirty-seven years. After six months, plunged into the pain, followed by his brother Theo, buried beside her in the small cemetery of Auvers.
The work of Van Gogh
Less than ten years of dedication to painting, they were enough to give Van Gogh a place among the geniuses in the history of art, and it is difficult to imagine what would have been his contribution of not having truncated himself his career. It should be noted, however, that his dedication was so brief as burning: compose his legacy more than eight hundred paintings, as well as numerous drawings and etchings. The works carried out before your stay in Paris make up what might be called the dark period of the painter; in fact, his first important canvases dating back two years immediately prior to his arrival in the French capital (1884-1885). Roughly in these early works, enthusiastic admirer of Millet, Van Gogh portrayed the suffering of humble workers subjected to considerable physical effort and their miserable living conditions.

The potato eaters (1885)
The most ambitious work and that better reflects this era of the painter is the potato eaters (1885, Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). Five characters gather at seven in the afternoon in a dingy dining room to take potatoes and coffee. With crudeness and drama, Van Gogh transmits in the deformed faces a misery without hope. A Dim gas lamp lights slightly food, the table and the four characters in the background. In the foreground, backlit, is a woman in an exaggeratedly reduced scale.
The factions are cartoonish, deformed bodies and the claustrophobic environment. From the formal point of view, the work is characterized by thick, choppy brushstrokes in very dark tones. The identification of the artist with the suffering of the poor and marginalized is your vehicle in this immediacy of the pictorial media used, completely unrelated to the academic conventions.
In Paris
The same year Georges Seurat presented to the public Sunday afternoon on the island of la Grande Jatte (1886), Van Gogh arrived in Paris, where he remained until 1888. During those two years his painting style changed so radical: withdrew from the Dutch tradition for leaning by the clear tones, pure colors and the small strokes divisive that Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac taught him. Despite that their inclination for discipline divisive were scarce, learned, however, the importance of the brushstroke and the juxtaposition of colors, which would later use for more subjective and personal purposes.

Self-portrait with straw hat (1887-88)
One representative of the stay in Paris pictures is the self-portrait with straw hat (1887-88, Museum of art, New York). The palette and brush strokes reveal the influence of the divisiveness or pointillism, especially practiced in the works of Seurat and Signac. Van Gogh gets in this work a total assimilation of the neoimpresionistas principles, and the self-portrait reflects the strong temperament of who, in December 1885, had written to his brother: "I prefer to paint the eyes of human beings instead of cathedrals, as there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedrals, no matter how solemn and imposing they may be. "The soul of a man, so is that of a poor bum, it's more interesting to me".
In February 1888 Van Gogh moved to the town of Arles, in the South of France. It was intended to find the luminosity that had so admired in Japanese prints. He is fascinated with the dazzling sun, deep blue sky and the vividness of the colors. Reality and painting seemed to agree; back left the skies covered Holland, Belgium and Paris. In sower with setting sun (1888, Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Southern Sun radiates the fields with their energy, while a peasant - inspired by Millet - seeding the Earth. The work expresses the joy of the author at a place that stimulated his creative force and allowed him to advance in his artistic work.

Sower with setting sun (1888)
Van Gogh sought to persuade Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin that they moved to this southern paradise live and create, well, a small community of artists. Vincent was captivated by the sharp contours and extensive levels of pure color that characterized the style of his fellow, and was influenced by them in works as Café de night of Arles (1888, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut).
But Van Gogh, Arles installed eight months before the arrival of Gauguin, had found its own style beyond Impressionism and the divisiveness. Differences and confrontations between the two artists were multiple. Gauguin rejected fillings that Van Gogh used because they seemed to be messy; He saw himself as a primitive refined, while considered an impulsive and romantic artist Vincent.
In a series that had as theme Les Alyscamps, a park of Arles, Van Gogh followed the advice of Gauguin of a painting "from memory", inspired by the women in the garden picture (1888, Art Institute, Chicago) painted by his partner. It is also the case of a Woman of Arles (1888, Hermitage Museum, Petersburgo), one of the few works of the artist not created naturally. Gauguin imposed you strongly such a procedure, which would end up being another reason for disagreement artistic among both teachers, since Van Gogh considered that work naturally was the only means through which he could express his ideas.

Women of Arles (1888)
Women of Arles is also known with the title memory of the garden of Etten (small town in the North of Holland, in which the painter worked for a while). This fact, the of the memory, which made it unnecessary to work was probably natural. The figures and landscape stretches without depth, in parallel to the surface of the canvas, in peculiar areas, according to a Japanese painters acquired method. At first glance it seems that the picture is painted in broad expanses of colors, but a closer look reveals that these extensions are saturated with small and hasty brushstrokes, creating the internal dynamism of forms and makes them extremely expressive. The faces of the women, pensive and sad, transmitted to the viewer a sense of anguish.
At the artistic level, its little more than one year stay in Arles resulted in about two hundred canvases. The bedroom of Van Gogh in Arles (1889, Musée d'Orsay, Paris) is one of the most famous. It represents the bedroom of the painter, theme that attempted repeatedly with the desire to express the idea of a "complete rest" through the use of light and filled with paste colors only. In it, with an extreme concision, the painter showed the atmosphere of the piece, fitted with the utmost simplicity with a bed, a table, two chairs, a mirror, several paintings and two drawings. One of the versions of this painting was finished by Van Gogh in 1889, during his stay at the asylum of Saint-Remy-de-Provence.

The bedroom of Van Gogh in Arles (1889)
The stay in Arles must also mention other famous works: sunflowers (1888, National Gallery, London) formed part of a series intended to decorate the Studio where they worked together Van Gogh and Gauguin; in some of the paintings, flowers are placed on a blue background, but this all is painted in different ranges of yellow, the color that the artist is associated to the sunshine and happiness. He also painted landscapes, still lifes and portraits, as well as his known paintings of bright and glowing fields of wheat under a deep blue sky.
The last years
When, at the beginning of December 1888, Gauguin made a portrait of Vincent Van Gogh Painting sunflowers (1888, Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Van Gogh thought he saw represented his own madness. Then, with the turbulent launch of mutilation of the ear (never quite enlightened) ended a stormy coexistence of two months and, with it, the utopia of creating a community of artists in the South of France. This plunged all in a severe mental crisis that would end with his detention in a hospital.
Van Gogh would suffer since several nervous breakdowns, although only occasionally affected his fast pace of work; He was interned, first in the mental hospital of Saint-Rémy, and then, under the care of doctor Gachet, in Auvers-sur-Oise. In several pictures which he dedicated to his doctor (as the Portrait of doctor Gachet, 1890, Musée d'Orsay, Paris) underlines its passivity and melancholy in a fully romantic gesture. This final period works show a strong contrast and reflect his intimate misery and the inner torment that afflicted him; formal, nervous and desasosegado until the paroxysm treatment, the brushstrokes thick and undulating and the sharp colors of his palette express their anxiety.

Detail of a self-portrait (1890, Musée d'Orsay, Paris)
Also at this late stage there are many masterpieces; to it belong his best self-portraits, among which stands out the self-portrait of 1890 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), which gave the doctor Gachet. The predominance of blue tones contrast with the reds and oranges from the hair and the face; Blues are also the eyes, whose fixed and penetrating look immediately attracts the attention of the Viewer. Once wrote to his brother Theo: "has been said - and I am willing to believe it - which is not easy to get to know oneself, or not to paint oneself". The picture is one of the culminating results of the laborious exercise of introspection that Van Gogh underwent.
Although they can also find paintings of limpid splendor, in his last landscapes natural beauty often appears troubled by a ground shaking, reflection of the anxiety of the artist. The barracks (1889, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburgo) presents a simple landscape, in appearance with a field in foreground, a group of barracks, a few hills and the sky as a backdrop. However, not a single plot of the canvas is free of concern: everything is live and everything is in impetuous movement. The sky, painted with large brushstrokes, seems to precipitate on the hills, which in turn resemble strong waves of water that leap over buildings. Images of the barracks also radiate tranquility with its broken silhouettes. The same tension has the chromatic range: dominate the green tones varied, but hit an almost red roof breaks the balance.

Cypress (1889)
In cypresses (1889, Metropolitan Museum, New York), those infamados trees that always symbolized hospitality will stand as two flares from a thicket of low, devilishly restless clumps against a bright blue sky swirl of white clouds. The strokes are thick, are clustered and overlap in whirlpool, and across the landscape is pierced by a disturbing anxiety. An even more intense screening of mood in the landscape is located in starry night (1889, MOMA, New York), where the waves shake a visionary representation of the sky, reflecting overwhelming inner anguish. The strength of such works has earned the artist consideration of great forerunner of expressionism.

Starry night (1889)
The mood of Van Gogh in this final phase was not always bleak. Indeed, many of the letters to Theo of recent months are illuminated by a creative high and happy drunkenness, for the joy of artistic liberation finally achieved in intimate communion with the free nature. The inner uneasiness lived with an unquenchable creative passion and its exacerbated sensitivity for beauty, and such tension is at the base of many works. Wheat field with cypresses (1889, National Gallery, London) shows the restless spirit of a man on the brink of insanity, but also expresses admiration of the artist by the beauty and power of nature, as manifested in the flaming cypresses and the ears bent by the wind.

Wheat field with cypresses (1889)
Similar psychic complexity is reflected in works such as Las lilas (1889, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburgo). The thick grass and flowers in the foreground are especially beautiful and radiant colors which is painted in flower Bush sound like a hymn to the beauty and power of nature; but the blue of the background has a tone so intense that makes thinking about the mood of the painter. Each pictorial form and each brushstroke express voltage Max: stems and petals of the rows are twisted as if they were on fire.
But nature, which looked forward and surprised the master with its beauty, could not calm his tormented soul. Two weeks before his suicide he painted one of his most stunning works, wheat field with crows (1890, Van Gogh Museum), which has been the subject of different interpretations. A foreboding dark sky with a flock of Ravens covers one of his beloved wheat, half crossed by a road cut.

Wheat field with crows (1890)
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
Biographies of historical figures and personalities

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