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Vincent Van Gogh

Netherlands Born in: 1853 Masterpieces

The painter Vincent Van Gogh is undoubtedly one of the most renowned artists of the 19th century. He is also the archetype of the accursed artist: underappreciated during his lifetime, an alcoholic, poor, and ill. Nonetheless, he was extremely productive and created more than 2,000 works of art. Today, his paintings are worth a considerable sum on the art market.

Born in 1853 in the Netherlands, Van Gogh came from a bourgeois family and several of his family members worked for a prominent art dealer. He tried to follow in his father's footsteps as an evangelist, then tried working for an art dealer, but failed at both. He turned to painting at the age of 27. Art became his last hope; it was all he had left. “Painting is the skin of my skin," he wrote to his brother.

Van Gogh wanted to become an illustrator and dreamed of works by the greatest artists: Corot, Millet, and others. Much like them, he depicted the lives of peasants, who were characterised by suffering but also by humanity – just like him… He became infatuated with portrait art, which he found to be both full of emotion and genuine. His portraits from this period are very dark, distinguished by beautiful, thick strokes. Particularly noteworthy was his interest in simple subjects, who stood out from the important figures portrayed in art at the time.

In 1885, he moved to Antwerp and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. Fed up with painting in a studio, he began working with live models.

In 1886, he decided to join his brother Theo in Paris and moved to Montmartre. There, he met influential artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin, and discovered impressionism and pointillism. This new imagery influenced his own work, which became clearer and more colourful. He was also inspired by Japanese prints, their subjects, their unique perspectives, and their colours.

Van Gogh began painting without any real concerns for reality and invented his own language… a delicious language! His work became unique. He used vivid colours that he managed to consistently integrate into the entire canvas, thereby revealing many different variants while at the same time creating a certain chromatic unity. His use of complementary colours in particular highlighted the brightness and vibrancy of his work. Van Gogh painted quickly, using thick and dynamic colourful strokes and handling the brush with skill, without ever falling into redundancy. He exhibited his art mainly in restaurants.

An admirer of Paul Cézanne, he wanted to also draw inspiration from southern landscapes and moved to Arles. Inspired by his surroundings, he continued to perfect his technique and assert his style: more colours and more interpretations. He painted portraits of ordinary people.

Van Gogh asked Paul Gauguin to join him and they moved into a studio together. Yet the two artists were opposites: Vincent Van Gogh painted from nature, while Paul Gauguin used his imagination. One evening, a violent argument erupted between the two painters. On this infamous night, Van Gogh severed his own ear and gave it to a prostitute with whom he had a long-running relationship.

Van Gogh spent time in psychiatric hospitals several times following this incident, then returned to Antwerp in 1890. Inspired by inhabitants of villages, the stars he aligned perfectly, cypress trees, and other patients at the psychiatric hospitals, he developed an incredibly accurate style.

Van Gogh died in mysterious circumstances in 1890, largely unappreciated in the art world but admired by many artists. He sold only one painting during his lifetime.

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