top-rated free essay

Vincent Van Gogh's Life

By CianaJohnson1 Sep 05, 2013 3058 Words
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most important figures in art history. His works are recognized all across the world for their bright colors and his extraordinary style of painting. Vincent based his art off of his life which was filled with heartbreak, childhood troubles and mental disabilities. He lived a rough life of 37 years full of mental and physical health conditions. These conditions were not his only problem. He had many problems finding love, which he never did and he had problems growing up. His parents accepted him as a child and tried pushing him in the wrong directions. Vincent was born in the Netherlands, and his house was very small. He lived in poverty. He moved around the world frequently as a child and as a man. He finally decided what he wanted to be in life and soon realized that painting was the only way he could let out his feelings without hurting the people surrounding him. Although his life ended sadly with depression, his work and legacy has been passed on for several years. Van Gogh was raised in Brabant, a village of Zundert, in the Netherlands in a family of eight. His father, Theodorus, and his mother, Anna Cornelia, both born in Holland, had Vincent Willem van Gogh on March 30th, 1852 on the same exact date as their other child who was born first, also named Vincent but was a still-born baby. Vincent always felt he had to live up to what the deceased Vincent should have been, which could be a traumatic experience for a young boy. Two years after his birth, a sister named Anna Cornelia after her mother was born, and then a boy named after his father, Theodorus. Two years after that was the birth of two girls named Elisabeth and Wilhelmina. The last of the children was Cornelis Vincent. Vincent’s mother was forty-seven by this time. All of the children had a broad range of scholastic goals, which were reached. Vincent was transferred to a Paris school and then to a London school. The two eldest daughters were sent to boarding schools; although that put the family in a financial budge, they still managed to cope. Theodorus went through many sacrifices for his boys to keep them from going into the military and to put them in a good school. Little is known about Vincent’s schooling. He stopped going to school in March of 1868 at the age of 15 and it is still unknown why. The house the six children grew up in was a small house in their hometown of Zundert. Vincent got many of his ideas for his paintings from his hometown because it was so quiet and surrounded by woods, leaving the family with no materialistic wants. The parents believe it was better that way so they had no distractions and could spend more time on school work. His sister described Vincent as extremely serious and nonsocial. He was always walking around clumsily and in a daze with his head hung low. “Not only were his sisters and brothers like strangers to him, but he was a stranger to himself” (Vincent van Gogh. California 3). This is why Vincent was always lonely and confused about life; he had no clue who he was. Vincent always longed for friends but he was always nervous and scared, so he kept his family members close to him. He was transferred to London in 1873, although he was so attached to his home and family it made his fears and homesickness become more pronounced. As he got older he traveled all around Paris and other parts of the world and got used to being away from home and his family. Vincent’s travels made it hard for him to keep any friends he made while he was in the towns he was in because he was so strange. As he was traveling and painting around the world, Vincent continuously wrote letters to his brother Theo. He wrote nearly 1,000 letters to his friends and family about his experiences on his trips, his feelings, and his views and aspects on life (Vincent van Gogh. California 2). Theo and Vincent were extremely close and he would tell Theo things he would not tell anyone else. In some of the letters Vincent talked about suicide and how he had no point for living. Theo convinced him otherwise until finally Vincent did kill himself after being put into an institution. Six months after his death Theo died, insane. Theo’s wife, Johanna, chose to have him buried right next to Vincent. The ten years that Vincent worked as a painter his brother had always supported him financially. Vincent was a disappointment to his entire family except to his brother Theo. Vincent was close to his family as a young child, but after his discouragement about painting he grew apart from his family. His dad made him work many different jobs as a young boy and he had no time to have fun and make friends. His father mostly wanted him to become a minister but he let him down when Vincent left their home to become the famous artist he is today. Vincent did a lot of charity work like helping poor people and providing clothing and money for the less fortunate, which was one of his deepest desires. After returning home, he fell deeply in love with his first cousin Kee Bos. She had also been staying with his family. Like his first love, Eugenia Kee, had no interest in Vincent whatsoever. He attempted to visit her at her family’s home but her father would not allow it. After many attempts to see her Vincent “held his hand in the flame of a kerosene lamp and said to Kee’s father, ‘Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame!’ After blowing the flame out, Kee’s father took him to a nearby saloon” (Vincent van Gogh. California 6). Finally her dad convinced him that there was no way they could see each other and their relationship had no future. Vincent faced rejection throughout his whole life; he was not always accepted by the people surrounding him, including them. He had very few close friends; an important friend he met when he moved to Arles, France was Paul Gauguin which was also a painter. Gaugin and van Gogh were as close as brothers but often got into arguments. After time their relationship grew apart and one last fight resulting in van Gogh cutting off part of his own ear. The reason he cut it off is unknown which arouses questions of his sanity. He brought it wrapped up in a cloth to a woman in a brothel, then staggered to the Yellow House, a place for art dealers, where he finally collapsed on the ground. He was found by the police and taken to the hospital immediately (Vincent van Gogh: Biography Amsterdam 8). Theo thought Vincent was going to die because of the massive blood loss but he made an almost a full recovery, although he was emotionally and physically scarred. When he went back the Yellow House to work, one of his other good friends Joseph Roulin accepted a better paying job and moved with his family to Marseilles, France, leaving Vincent feeling very lost and unwanted. He always longed for intimacy with others, although it seemed as if all of his loved ones left him. After the fight that led to the tragedy of Vincent’s ear, he never saw Gauguin face to face again but they kept in touch through letters. A petition was signed that Vincent was admitted back to the hospital because he could be harmful to himself or others around him. This was a very low time for him because it discouraged his abilities and it lowered his self-esteem even more. After six weeks with the doctors he returned and started painting blossoming orchards around Arles. He still felt unsafe around the environment and scared of being back in the hospital, so he left Arles. Vincent had two unhappy romances, Kee and Sien. Both were very unsuccessful. Kee was his cousin and had no interest in him. Her father did not allow them to see each other, especially after his act when he tried to burn his hand just to see her. Sien was a prostitute and was not looking for the relationship that Vincent wanted. He lived a long life of loneliness and this could be one of the reasons why he had depression. He painted a picture of Sien called “Sorrow” (Vincent van Gogh. California 8). Between 1860 and 1880 is when Vincent decided to become an artist. Art to him was a way to get away from all the stress in life and imagine it any way he wanted to. Three of his best paintings were “Starry Night,” “The Sower,” and “The Potato Eaters” (Vincent van Gogh. California 8). He painted “Starry Night” near the mental asylum of Saint-Remy, just 13 months before he committed suicide. “The Sower” was painted in Amsterdam around 1888. It has been said that he got his inspiration for the style of this piece from a Japanese print. “The Potato Eaters” was Vincent’s first large scale painting with multiple people in it. It was painted in 1885, somewhere around the Netherlands. The idea of this painting was that the people who take the potatoes from the earth and dirt now eat them as a meal for their family (Keilty 34). He loved colors laid out in broad, bright strokes. He got the inspiration to use bright colors when he watched sunsets and sunrises, which is why he used mostly oranges, reds and yellows. As used in his painting “Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers” in 1889, he used many different shades of yellow to paint fourteen beautiful sunflowers (Hulsker 218). Vincent wanted a long-life partner, but that was not his goal. He wanted to be liked by everyone and for everyone to like his work. Vincent van Gogh was well known for his odd personality and artistic expression. He was not part of the clergy but painted for churches. To the coal miners in Belgium he was uneasy and strange. “He was also making pictures—or trying to—of the miners, and crying aloud in a voice still heard in the world of art—still with searing accents, ‘I am trying to save my soul,’ he wrote to his brother, Theo, ‘and I work in living flesh and blood, as Christ did, the greatest of all artists’” (Craven 216). He was a very religious man, although finding little time to go to church and devote his time to God. Vincent often isolated himself from the world from the fear of being judged by everyone around him. Although he and his parents had a tight bond when Vincent was a child, it tended to fall apart as he began to follow his dreams. Van Gogh was a highly emotional person and he also lacked self-confidence. He was a scrawny little man with a thin beard, red hair and bright blue eyes. He did not do well with stress and had a very short temper. He frequently had arguments with one of his close friends and a fellow painter Paul Gauguin, who led him to cutting off his own ear out of outrage. He was institutionalized after this very strange occurrence, although never diagnosed as insane. He was just known to have a very odd personality. Van Gogh also had a smoking and drinking problem. A popular drink to artists in his day was Thujone. It is an aromatic substance, found in many different plants and flowers used to make a drink that has mind-changing effects. Unfortunately, the Thujone reacted against Van Gogh’s high epilepsy and manic depression. Van Gogh also got extremely sick and the mystery of his sickness could not be solved by medical physicians. He had two diagnosed illnesses which were temporal lobe epilepsy and bipolar disorder. They were both made worse by his drinking. He once got Thujone poisoning when his epilepsy had a bad reaction to this drink. His epilepsy caused him to have partial seizures. The doctors prescribed him a medicine for this illness that made him see yellow dots. Perhaps this is why he loved the color so much. He suffered from attacks throughout his whole life, which got worse and more frequent with time. His bipolar disorder caused him to have mood swings and go through depression and anxiety. Van Gogh was also always a compulsive writer, which was diagnosed as hypergraphia. As if all this was not bad enough, from being outside in the sun so much he had a life-threatening sunstroke. He had all of these periods of illnesses during the last two years of his life. Van Gogh had a crazy personality and lived a life of loneliness. People who knew him described his face as “something between a convict and the pictures of Christ” (Craven 215). Living undiagnosed of insanity, he was institutionalized until he committed suicide in July 1890, at the age of 37, not knowing his paintings would be such a huge success. Van Gogh was a deep, emotional person with only a few friends. He seemed to only be content when he had a paint brush in his hand. He went through a lot of hard times in his life caused by depression, illnesses, and loneliness. Van Gogh released his feelings through his artwork. During his childhood, he never painted because the people around him told him he was no good at it. His artistic talent went untrained and unrecognized until the age of 27. One of his favorite painters that he took interest in was George Henry Boughton, who he often mentioned in his letters, to his family, and friends because Boughton was such a big inspiration to him. In his self-portrait viewers get the feeling of his discouraged state and loneliness that he experienced as he grew older. Van Gogh once said “the easiest painting to paint is of you” (Vincent van Gogh: Biography 1). He was generally considered the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt. Van Gogh painted almost 900 paintings during the period of his life, although he only sold one painting four months before his death. Van Gogh did not live a normal childhood; instead he was always helping his father and uncle, with yard work and also helping them prepare for their sermons. When van Gogh started to paint, he isolated himself from the rest of the world. He started his first painting at the age of 28, which he wrote about to his brother Theo telling him how he enjoyed his paint brushes and paints. He traveled all over Europe in a desperate search for work, love and someone to buy his paintings. He went through many jobs: A teacher, a bookseller, a paint dealer and many others, which were all the wrong jobs for Vincent. The travels he encountered gave him great opportunities to paint beautiful scenery. At 33, while in Paris, he ran into another painter who influenced him to use bright colors and use different styles of painting. The mystery painter was never mentioned in his letters and he is still unknown to this day. Van Gogh was a very lonely man throughout his entire life, which he expressed through his paintings and sermons. Vincent loved preaching, although his sermons always seemed to lack passion. He always lived a religious life and went to church. His dad always wanted him to become a minister but Vincent did not want to follow this dream. The only person he could be honest and true with was his brother Theo. Vincent and his father had a rocky relationship which grew worse within the years Vincent tried becoming a painter. He had been hurt so many times by loved ones that he felt he could not trust anyone, but he always had Theo behind him when he was stuck in a bind. The question remains if Vincent’s parents had any influence on whether or not he was insane. They often tried influencing him into things he did not want to do. All he wanted to do was be a painter. All the rest of the van Gogh children succeeded and became very successful, especially the girls, and it seemed to be a shame that Vincent did not do so until after his death. Theories have stressed that Anna’s first child, also named Vincent, was a life changing influence on his personality. Studies show that Vincent stopped at his brother’s grave a least once a week, before church. This could be an effect on his strange personality, being they were born on the same date only a year difference, and they had the same name. Vincent always felt like the “replacement child” (Vincent Amsterdam 1). Although his parents were always there for him when he needed to recover from an illness or another one of his epilepsy attacks, he did not get the emotional support he needed from them. Vincent’s parents always discouraged him from following his dream to be an artist; his brother was the only person in his family that actually supported him in his painting and tried to help him make a living off of it. Maybe with a little more support from his parents and the rest of his family he could have been a successful artist while he was still alive and spent his money on the things he wanted. One of his other passions in life was to help the poor and needy, which he did minimally because it was hard to do when he was still trying to survive on the little money he had for himself. Vincent van Gogh lived a life full of tragedy and heartbreak. He lost most of his family, although he was close to them as a child. Being born in The Netherlands he was around very often because of his constant travels. He lost most of his friends because of his personality that confused them. His closest companion was his brother Theo. He created many paintings throughout his life, sadly only selling one.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Vincent Van Gogh Life and Paintings

    ...Angelyne G. Sudsudan BS CM II Humanities1 9-10 MWF Vincent van Gogh "As for me, I am rather often uneasy in my mind, because I think that my life has not been calm enough; all those bitter disappointments, adversities, changes keep me from developing fully and naturally in my artistic career." Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29...

    Read More
  • Vincent Van Gogh

    ...10 Portraiture Case study/Essay Visual Arts Vincent Van Gogh Vincent Van Gogh was born 30th March, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands. Vincent used expressionistic colour, line and composition to record his life experiences, the people he encountered and the many disappointments he felt. Vincent’s father, Theodorus van Gogh, was an a...

    Read More
  • Vincent Van Gogh: Woe Is Me

    ...Vincent Van Gogh: Woe is Me During the last twenty years of the nineteenth century a new form of artistic painting formed. Postimpressionism was a form of art where the artist was highly individual and expressive. Some of the most creative painters in history helped to make the style a success. Paul Gauguin and Paul Cezanne are two of ...

    Read More
  • Vincent Van Gogh

    ...Vincent van Gogh began painting in 1879, and continued until his death in 1890. He died a premature death due to the decay of his mental stability, which led to a botched suicide attempt, causing his death two days later. He painted in the period of post-impressionism, during which he made 750 paintings, 1,600 drawings, nine lithographs, and one...

    Read More
  • Art Criticism on Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

    ...Van Gogh's Starry Eyes Brings Out a Starry Night Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night is probably his most famous painting. Instantly recognizable because of its unique style, this work has been the subject of poetry, fiction, CD-ROMs as well as the well known song "Vincent" or "Starry, Starry Night" by Don McLean. Starry Night was painted in the me...

    Read More
  • Vincent Van Gogh: Madman and Artist

    ...Documented Essay 12/11/10 Vincent Van Gogh: Madman and Artist Vincent Van Gogh, from the words of many, is one of the most famous post-impressionist painters of modern art the world has ever seen. Van Gogh was a serious, smart thinking man that found art to be the passion of his life. Van Gogh was a driven artist, but inside was a fr...

    Read More
  • Art - Vincent Van Gogh

    ... Joao de Carvalho, Jr. Vincent van Gogh: The “Naturalist” Painter Early Years Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands. His father, Theodorus van Gogh was an austere country minister and his mother, Anna Cornelia Carbentus, was a moody artist whose love of nature, drawing and watercolors was t...

    Read More
  • Vincent Van Gogh

    ...Vincent Van Gogh Although he is almost unknown during his brief lifetime, Vincent Willem van Gogh, was born Mar. 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, the Netherlands and is today probably the most known and appreciated representative of art. His work became an important bridge between the 19th and 20th centuries; and it was particularly influential...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.