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• Biography •

Van GoghVincent Van Gogh (March 30, 1853–July 29, 1890) was born in Holland in 1853. He was the eldest of eight children. Even as a child, Van Gogh showed signs of the troubled soul he was later to become, walking around in a daze many times deep in thought. As a youth, he took many jobs finding success in none. He began studying the art of the masters. At one point he even became an art dealer. But like all his other endeavors, even this was to be shortlived. If a patron tried to purchase a poorly painted picture, Van Gogh would argue and give long discourses why the painting was a piece of junk. Of course, he sold little and soon was out of business. Later he tried, again unsuccessfully, to become at different periods of his life a minister and a teacher.

Not only was his occupational life not fruitful, so too was his personal life. Van Gogh never seemed to learn the social skills of dealing with women. He fell in love easily and then was later heartbroken just as easily. One of his greatest lost loves was that for his first cousin Kee. But it was this web of failure that also fueled his genius. Throughout his life, Van Gogh was supported financially by his younger brother Theo who seemed to show his brother unconditional love.

Although Van Gogh was never successful in his lifetime, he did meet and work with several of the great masters including Pissarros, Gauguin, and Signac. Van Gogh suffered from severe bouts of depression and had repeated mental breakdowns in his life. These episodes led to several stints in asylums, the longest coming in 1889 to 1890. Probably the most significant sign of his sad mental state was his infamous cutting off a large portion of one of his ears following a heated argument with fellow artist Gaugin. He then wrapped the ear in a newspaper and sent it to a prostitute model he had befriended.

No matter how disturbed Van Gogh was during his life, the greatness of his art cannot be denied. The detail and intricate use of color and texture in his work has given the world some of its most passionate creations of beauty and feeling. From his inner turmoil, he was able to convey in his view of the outside world, a connection to the inside world of his life and being. Vincent Van Gogh took his life with a gunshot to his chest on July 20, 1890. Although considered one of the world's most successful artists, tragically he died feeling a failure.

• Artwork •

Cypresses and Two Figures (Click to enlarge)Cypresses and Two Figures
Van Gogh's love of light and color constantly drew him outdoors and here, the landscape, the light and the people brought him a sense of happiness where he saw in everything around him a vibrant beauty that moved him deeply. In characteristically bold brush strokes Van Gogh guides his viewer's eye with masterly skill across the swaying harvest fields, past the grand cypresses to the distant and vibrant blue summer sky.

Le Church in Auvers-sur-Oise (Click to enlarge)Church in Auvers-sur-Oise
Van Gogh's bouts with insanity made him unfit for the ministry, so he found another way of service - his art. He combines the irreconcilable, with emotion and expression, punctuated by bold brush strokes - violet, cobalt, orange - with skies almost carved from the paint. The church has no doors, no way in, yet is lit from within by intense mystical warmth and love. This was one of Van Gogh's final paintings, for he died by his own hand two months later.

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