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Vincent van Gogh : Art, Life and Beyond

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

One of the world’s greatest artist known for his works ‘sunflowers’ and ‘starry night’ amongst others was in fact not a very well-known artist even after his death! Vincent van Gogh was a post-Impressionist painter whose work — notable for its beauty, emotion and colour — highly influenced the 20th-century art. Though we identify him as one of the most eminent artist, he coped with mental illness and remained poor and virtually unknown throughout his life.

What would life be, if we had no courage to attempt anything ?

- Vincent van Gogh


A melancholy child, Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30’ 1853 in Groot – Zundert, Netherlands. His father was a country minister and mother, a moody artist whose love for nature and watercolours transferred to her son. Born exactly a year after with his elder brother (his mother gave birth to a stillborn), he was named Vincent, same as his dead older brother.


Forced to leave school at 15 due to financial problems in his family, he had to get a job and started working at his uncle’s art dealership – Goupil & Cie; a firm of art dealers in Hague. Van Gogh was fluent in French, German, English and his native Dutch by then. He fell in love with the English culture when he was shifted to the Groupil gallery in London and also became a fan of Charles Dickens & George Elliot.


He decided to become an artist and moved to Brussels in 1880 for the same. Without a formal art training, his brother Theo decided to support him financially. He began learning on his own by studying books like Travaux des champs by Jean-François Millet and Cours de dessin by Charles Bargue and his art is what helped him stay emotionally balanced. He started working on his first (considered to be) masterpiece ‘Potato Eater’ in 1885. He saw his first impressionist art in Paris and was inspired by its colour and light and started studying with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Camille Pissarro amongst others.


Paintings have a life of their own, that derive from the painter's soul.

- Vincent van Gogh

He completed more than 2,100 works – 860 oil paintings and more than 1300 watercolours and sketches. A few of Van Gogh’s well - known works include:

1. The Starry Night : Painted while he was in an asylum in France in 1889 (the year before his death). “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” he wrote to his brother Theo. One of his most popular works, it is a combination of memory, emotion, imagination and observation. This painting depicts an expressive swirling night sky and a sleeping village, with a large flame-like cypress, thought to represent the bridge between life and death, looming in the foreground. It is currently housed in the museum of modern art, New York, NY.

2. Sunflowers : Van Gogh painted two series of sunflowers in Arles, France: 4 between August and September, 1888 and one in January, 1889. Painted on a canvas, the painting depicts wilting yellow sunflowers in a vase are now displayed at museums in London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Munich and Philadelphia.

3. Irises : Believed to be influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, Van Gogh painted irises after entering asylum in France in 1889. French critic Octave Mirbeau, the painting's first owner and an early supporter of Van Gogh, remarked, "How well he has understood the exquisite nature of flowers!"