A Biographical Timeline of Vincent Van Gogh

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Vincent Van gogh was born in 1853 in Groot-Zundert to Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, a local minister. Born in the Netherlands, The nationality of the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh and his native language were Dutch, but he would later go on to learn English, French and German and spend much of his time in France. Named for his grandfather and his still-born older brother, there have been numerous theories about the possible effects of having been named after a dead older sibling, citing his depictions of male figures in pairs. Three of Van Gogh’s uncles were art dealers and his great uncle was a sculptor. Vincent Van Gogh’s timeline is well documented, mostly in thanks to the correspondence he carried on with his brother Theo throughout his lifetime, revealing most of the facts known know about his life.

Facts about Vincent Van Gogh’s Childhood

Vincent Van Gogh’s younger brother Theo was born in May of 1857 followed by his brother Cor and sisters, Elizabeth, Anna and Wil. Van Gogh’s schooling as a child was maintained by a Catholic school teacher in Zundert, followed by 3 years of home schooling by a Governess and the attendance of boarding schools in Zevenbergen and Tilburg in the Netherlands. While attending Middle School in Tilburg, Van Gogh learned to draw from an accomplished Parisian artist. Van Gogh has been quoted as having a “gloomy and cold” childhood and eventually returned home in 1868 from boarding school.

History of Vincent Van Gogh’s Early Employment

At the age of fifteen Van Gogh began working for an art dealer in The Hague through his Uncle Vincent. After four years of training, Vincent was moved to London where he was financially successful and happy. After falling in love with his landlady’s daughter, Eugenie Loyer, Vincent was rejected and subsequently heartbroken. After this encounter, Van Gogh turned to religion and isolated himself. After being sent to Paris to work for a different art dealer, Van Gogh became bitter at how the French treated art and was terminated from his employment in 1876.

After losing his job, Van Gogh decided to become an assistant to an English Methodist minister. After moving back home later that year before Christmas, Van Gogh spent six months working in a nearby bookstore, translating Bible passages into many of the languages of Van Gogh’s schooling; English, French and German. In 1877, Van Gogh’s father sent Vincent to Amsterdam to stay with his uncle, an Admiral in the Navy. He studied theology to enter the University there but later failed in his endeavor, abandoning his desire to return to school. After leaving his uncle’s house in 1878, Van Gogh failed another course in Missionary School.

Van Gogh received a post as a missionary in Petit Wasmes in January of 1879, a small town in Belgium. During his stay with the poor that he ministered to, Van Gogh slept on straw and lived in squalor. Despite his desire to live in similar conditions, the church looked down on his decisions. After arguing with his parents about returning home, Van Gogh and his father became increasingly unhappy with each other, with the older Van Gogh declaring at one time that he would commit his son to an asylum.

After a year of drifting and arguing with his family, Van Gogh’s brother Theo was able to convince him to take up art full time in the fall of 1880. It was then that Willem Roelofs, a recommended Dutch Artist convinced Vincent to attend the Royal Academy of Art. Van Gogh studied anatomy, perspective and modeling while there.

Returned to Etten – The First of Van Gogh’s Various Controversies

After completing a short stint in the Academy, Van Gogh returned to Etten where his parents lived. During this short stint, he fell in love with his recently widowed cousin, Kee Vos Stricker. Vehemently denying his advances, Vos Stricker, who was seven years older than Van Gogh and had an eight year old child, proved to be a major blow for Van Gogh. Despite her refusals, Vincent repeatedly appealed to her father, receiving angry denials again and again. At one point, he held his hand over an open flame, requesting to speak with her for as long as he could keep his hand in the flame. Nothing came of his persistence though as Von Stricker did not believe Van Gogh could support himself or his daughter financially.

Van Gogh Visits The Hague

The entire situation left Van Gogh feeling betrayed and sickened by the hypocrisy of his uncle and his father and after turning down an offer of money from his father, Vincent prepared to leave for The Hague. In 1882, Van Gogh moved to The Hague and started studying art with his cousin, Anton Mauve. The two worked together only for a short time though as Mauve soon stopped responding to Van Gogh’s letters.

Part of Mauve’s coldness might be related to Van Gogh’s first of many sordid love affairs, this one with Clasina Maria Hoornik (Sien), a local prostitute. After he moved into an apartment with Sien and her five year old daughter, Van Gogh’s family became extremely unhappy with the coupling and though Sien was pregnant, Van Gogh’s father urged him to leave her.

Van Gogh was commissioned by his uncle, Cornelius Marinus van Gogh, to draw twelve views of the city during this time. His uncle, not fully satisfied with the drawings commissioned Van Gogh to paint six more, more detailed than the previous twelve. After completing the first batch of drawings in May of that year, Vincent was admitted to the hospital with Gonorrhea for three weeks. After returning, Van Gogh begins working with oil paints and lithography, and moves Sien and the children into a larger apartment.

In 1883, Van Gogh makes the decision to break up with Sien and leaves her with the new born Willem and her daughter. Van Gogh reported to his brother that the situation had become too hard and it is thought that Sien might have returned to prostitution to make up for the lack of income, putting increased strain on the family. Sien told her youngest child later in life that he is the son of a painter named Vincent Van Gogh, though the timing makes this unlikely. She eventually committed suicide in 1904, drowning herself in a river.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Return to Nuenen

Van Gogh moved to Drenthe, followed by Nieuw Amsterdam, soon followed by a return to his parents’ home in Nuenen by the end of 1883. While in Nuenen, Van Gogh devoted large amounts of time to sketching cottages and local peasants. In 1884, Van Gogh embroiled himself in another controversy, this time in an affair with Margot Begemann, a woman 10 years older than him. She fell deeply in love with him and the two planned to marry. However, their families disapproved and soon afterward Margot attempted suicide.

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Following the end of their relationship and Margot’s narrow survival, Van Gogh’s father died of a stroke, on March 26, 1885. After a long period of grieving, Van Gogh painted The Potato Eaters, his first undisputed masterpiece, and was given his first chance to show his work, with interest rising in Paris and in The Hague. However, another controversy found him in September of that year when a sitter became pregnant and he was forbidden from using anymore villagers to model in his paintings.

Van Gogh’s time in Nuenen is marked by his use of earth colors, dark and lacking the tones of later life. Theo himself replied to Van Gogh’s complaints about his paintings not selling that they were too dark and not in the current style of Impressionism and bright colors.

The Paris Years

In 1886, Van Gogh left his home in Nuenen and entered the Academy of Art in Antwerp to improve his technique. Using live models during the evenings, Vincent developed much of his style in the realm of figures and live paintings. After a couple of short months at the Acaedmy, Vincent left for Paris where his brother Theo was working as an art dealer, selling Impressionist paintings. Vincent moved in with his brother and began studying the impressionist styles of Paris during that time. Almost immediately, he begins utilizing more colorful palettes, the hallmark of most of his greater works. Because Vincent lived with his brother Theo at 54 Rue Lepic, little is known about his life during the years spent in Paris. There were few letters written.

During this time, major impressionist exhibitions were done in Paris and Van Gogh was greatly affected. However, soon he felt that Paris had worn him out and after meeting Paul Gauguin and displaying his own work in numerous exhibits, he decided to leave the city for a less busy lifestyle.

More Trouble Arises in Arles for Van Gogh

In 1888, Van Gogh departed Paris and arrived in Arles where he immediately took up the painting of various landscapes. His life in Arles was remarkably less exotic than in Paris and with the exception of a legal dispute over the cost of his hotel in the first months of his stay there, Van Gogh was relatively free of controversy at first. He eventually sorted out the cost of living and moved into the Yellow House where Gauguin joined him. Prompted by Gauguin, Van Gogh began experimenting with various forms of painting. It is in Arles that Van Gogh painted many of his Sunflowers as well as experimented with painting from memory.

The two quickly began to quarrel though, constantly disagreeing about art and on December 23, 1888, only 4 months after Gauguin had moved in, Van Gogh approached him with a razor blade in hand. Cutting off the lower part of his ear, Van Gogh then wrapped up the mutilated ear and gave it to a local prostitute named Rachel and asked her to “keep this object carefully”. Gauguin immediately left after informing Theo of the incident and Van Gogh spent numerous days in the hospital recovering. Gauguin would never see Van Gogh again.

Vincent Van Gogh at Saint-Remy Hospital

Van Gogh did return to the Yellow House, but after a month of hallucinations, mad ravings and paranoia, local citizens petitioned to have him removed from the house, fearing Van Gogh to be completely insane. Later, on May 8, 1889, Van Gogh had himself committed to the asylum in Saint Remy. Immediately they diagnose him with epilepsy. Given two small rooms, one to live in and one to paint in, Van Gogh begins painting the gardens and surrounding areas of the asylum. While in the asylum, numerous examples of Van Gogh’s work were exhibited in Paris. However, upon leaving the asylum to attend an exhibit, Vincent had a relapse and returned once more. Later, another two day trip to Arles resulted in a similar attack. During his stay in Saint-Remy, van Gogh painted hundreds of paintings, including his famed Starry Night, the numerous paintings of the Wheat Field and hills outside his window, and a selection of self-portraits.

On May 16, 1890, despite numerous relapses, Van Gogh left the asylum and visited his brother Theo. After spending a few days with them, he moved to Auvers and stayed with Dr. Paul Ferdinand Gachet, the subject of the twin portraits by Van Gogh. However, Van Gogh’s depression became too much to bear and on July 27th, 1890, he walked into a field and shot himself in the chest. The shot does not immediately kill him however as he stumbled back to his inn. Two days later however, with Theo by his side, he succumbed to the gunshot wound and died. Vincent Van Gogh’s grave is located today in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Theories Regarding Vincent Van Gogh’s Mental Illness

Throughout his lifetime, Van Gogh was stricken with medical problems, most pointedly his mental instability. Despite his most famous stint in the hospital following the removal of his ear in 1888, Van Gogh is thought to have any number of possible diseases with hundreds of psychiatrists offering more than 30 different possible diagnoses in 117 years since his death. Largely agreed to have suffered from debilitating bouts of depression, Vincent Van Gogh was also known for his manic episodes, reacting violently with self-mutilation.

Possible problems he might have suffered from include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, syphilis, lead poisoning (from his paints), epilepsy, and porphyria. Combine any of these possible illnesses with his poor diet, constant work and dependence on alcohol and absinthe, and all of his symptoms could be accounted for.

Further medical study has been made of his constant use of the color yellow in his work. In particular, it has been found that overuse of Absinthe can result in xanthopsia, a condition that forces one to see all things in yellow. Another theory is that Dr. Gachet prescribed digitalis, supported by the Foxglove plant the doctor is holding in his portrait, the source of digitalis. Digitalis is known to cause a yellow tint in vision or even yellow spots similar to the stars in his night time paintings. Possible lead poisoning would have led to retina swelling as well which could account for Van Gogh’s halo affected images.

Van Gogh’s Work Today

The cost for original artwork by Vincent Van Gogh is known today as the highest among almost all artwork. The most expensive Vincent Van Gogh painting sold to date is the Portrait of Dr. Gachet which sold for $82.5 million in 1990. His work exists today in galleries all over the world, including The Hermitage, the MET, and dozens more. Valuing the cost of authentic artwork by Vincent Van Gogh has become increasingly difficult in recent years because of the ever growing price for which his work sells.

In 1999, one of Vincent van Gogh’s Pollarded Willow paintings was stolen. Miraculously, the painting was recovered in 2006, unharmed and returned to its home in Den Bosch at the F. van Lanschot Bankiers Headquarters. Surely, Van Gogh’s images are some of the most sought.

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