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Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night

Biography

Vincent Willem van Gogh (Dutch: [ˈvɪnsɛnt ˈʋɪləm vɑn ˈɣɔx] ( listen); (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work had far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. His paintings include portraits, self portraits, landscapes, still lifes, olive trees and cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers. He was largely ignored by critics until after his early death in 1890. The only substantial exhibitions held during his lifetime were showcases in Paris and Brussels.

The first published full-length article came in 1890, when Albert Aurier described him as a Symbolist. The widespread and popular realisation of his significance in the history of modern art did not begin until his adoption by the Fauves and German Expressionists in the mid-1910s. Vincent van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents and spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers before travelling to The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught in England at Isleworth and Ramsgate. Although he drew as a child, he did not paint until his late twenties; most of his best-known works were completed during the last two years of his life. He was deeply religious as a younger man and aspired to be a pastor and from 1879 worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he sketched people from the local community.

His first major work was 1885's The Potato Eaters, from a time when his palette mainly consisted of sombre earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid colouration that distinguished his later paintings. In March 1886, he relocated to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the region's strong sunlight. His paintings grew brighter in colour, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolours, drawings, sketches and prints. After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness he died aged 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, art historians see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence wrought through illness. His late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art critic Robert Hughes, "longing for concision and grace".

Etten, Drenthe and The Hague

Van Gogh's parents moved to the Etten countryside in April 1881. He continued to draw, often using neighbours as subjects. During the first summer, he took long walks with his recently widowed cousin, Kee Vos-Stricker, daughter of his mother's older sister and Johannes Stricker.[33] Kee was seven years older and had an eight-year-old son. He proposed marriage but was refused with the words "No, nay, never" ("nooit, neen, nimmer"). Late that November, Van Gogh wrote a strongly worded letter to Johannes,and left for Amsterdam but through letters maintained close contact.[ Kee would not meet him, her parents wrote that his "persistence is disgusting." In desperation, he held his left hand in the flame of a lamp, with the words: "Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame."[38] He did not recall the event well, but later assumed that his uncle blew out the flame. Kee's father made it clear to him that Kee's refusal should be heeded and that the two would not be married because of Van Gogh's inability to support himself. Van Gogh's perception of his uncle and former tutor's hypocrisy affected him deeply and put an end to his religious faith forever. That Christmas, he refused to attend church, quarreling violently with his father as a result and leading him to leave home the same day for The Hague.

He settled in The Hague in January 1882, where he visited his cousin-in-law, Anton Mauve. Mauve introduced him to painting in oil and watercolour and lent money to set up a studio,[44] but they fell out, possibly over the viability of drawing from plaster casts.[45] Van Gogh's uncle Cornelis, an art dealer, commissioned 12 ink drawings of views of the city which Van Gogh completed soon after arriving in the city, along with seven other drawings that May. In June he suffered a bout of gonorrhoea and spent three weeks in hospital, but that summer began to paint in oil. A view from a window of pale red rooftops. A bird flying in the blue sky and in the near distance fields and to the right, the town and others buildings can be seen. In the distant horizon are smokestacks. Rooftops, View from the Atelier The Hague, 1882, watercolour, private collection Mauve appears to have suddenly gone cold towards Van Gogh and stopped returning of his letters. He supposed that Mauve had learned of his new domestic arrangement with an alcoholic prostitute, Clasina Maria "Sien" Hoornik (1850–1904), and her young daughter. He had met Sien towards the end of January, when she had a five-year-old daughter and was pregnant. She had already borne two children who died, although Van Gogh was unaware of this; and on 2 July, she gave birth to a baby boy, Willem. When Van Gogh's father discovered the details of their relationship, he put pressure on his son to abandon Sien and her children, although Vincent at first defied him. Vincent considered moving the family out of the city, but in late 1883 left Sien and the two children. Perhaps lack of money pushed Sien back into prostitution; the home became less happy while Van Gogh may have felt family life was irreconcilable with his artistic development. When he left, Sien gave her daughter to her mother and baby Willem to her brother. She then moved to Delft, and later to Antwerp.

Willem remembered being taken to visit his mother in Rotterdam at around the age of 12, where his uncle tried to persuade Sien to marry in order to legitimize the child. Willem recalled his mother saying, "But I know who the father is. He was an artist I lived with nearly 20 years ago in The Hague. His name was Van Gogh." She then turned to Willem and said "You are called after him. While he believed himself Van Gogh's son, the timing of his birth makes this unlikely.[58] In 1904, Sien drowned herself in the River Scheldt. Van Gogh moved to the Dutch province of Drenthe, in the northern Netherlands. That December, driven by loneliness, he went to stay with his parents, who had been posted to Nuenen, North Brabant.

Artistic breakthrough and final

Ill from drink and suffering from smoker's cough Van Gogh moved to take refuge in Arles.[8] He arrived on 21 February 1888, and took room at the Hôtel-Restaurant Carrel.[8] He seems to have moved to the town with thoughts of founding a utopian art colony. The Danish artist Christian Mourier-Petersen (1858–1945) became his companion for two months, and at first Arles appeared exotic and filthy. In a letter, he described it as a foreign country: "The Zouaves, the brothels, the adorable little Arlesiennes going to their First Communion, the priest in his surplice, who looks like a dangerous rhinoceros, the people drinking absinthe, all seem to me creatures from another world."[85] Van Gogh was enchanted by the local landscape and light and his works from this period are richly draped in yellow, ultramarine, and mauve. His portrayals of the Arles landscape are informed by his Dutch upbringing; the patchwork of fields and avenues appear flat and lacking perspective, but excel in their colourisation.

The light in Arles excited him, and his newfound appreciation is seen in the range and scope of his work. That March he painted landscapes using a gridded "perspective frame"; three of these paintings were shown at the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. In April, he was visited by the American artist Dodge MacKnight, who was living nearby at Fontvieille.On 1 May, he signed a lease for 15 francs per month in the eastern wing of the Yellow House at No. 2 Place Lamartine. The rooms were unfurnished and uninhabited for some time. patrons are present at a sparsely attended venue with half full seating tables along the right and left walls, while the back wall has a taller piece of furniture with bottles atop it next to a doorway and in the centre of the room is a large piece of furniture that may be a billiards table. Bright lanterns hang from the ceiling and one person is standing.

The Night Café, 1888, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven A wooden rocking chair with a couple of opened books set on the green and yellow seat cushion with a lit candle in a holder also on the seat of the chair. On the wall is a burning candle in a holder casting a glowing light. Paul Gauguin's Armchair, 1888, Van Gogh Museum He moved from the Hôtel Carrel to the Café de la Gare on 7 May, where he befriended the proprietors, Joseph and Marie Ginoux. Although the Yellow House had to be furnished before he could fully move in, Van Gogh was able to utilize it as a studio.[89] Hoping to have a gallery to display his work, his project at this time was a series of paintings including Van Gogh's Chair (1888), Bedroom in Arles (1888), The Night Café (1888), Cafe Terrace at Night (September 1888), Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888), and Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888), all intended to form the décoration for the Yellow House.Van Gogh wrote about The Night Café: "I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime. When he visited Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer that June, he gave lessons to a Zouave second lieutenant—Paul-Eugène Milliet —and painted boats on the sea and the village.[93] MacKnight introduced Van Gogh to Eugène Boch, a Belgian painter who stayed at times in Fontvieille, and the two exchanged visits in July.[92]

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