“I am seeking, I am striving,
I am in it with all my heart.”
~ Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zundert, Holland. As the son of a pastor, he was raised in a strict, religious home and cultured atmosphere. However, Vincent struggled with emotional instability and lack of direction throughout his early years. He worked unsuccessfully as a bookstore clerk and an art salesman, but he believed that his true calling was to preach the gospel. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in this vocation as well. It wasn’t until he was in his late 20s that he decided to pursue another love and began to paint.
His first drawings and paintings were dark and somber-toned, depicting scenes from daily life of the local peasants. His most famous painting from this period is “The Potato Eaters.”
When Vincent moved to Paris, France to be with his brother, Theo, he saw the beautiful works of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters. It was then that he began to add color and movement to his paintings.
Unhappy with the Parisian Artist scene, he decided to move to the city of Arles in the South of France. The sunlight, the beauty and the color inspired Vincent to paint some of his most famous paintings through which he endeavored to “express” his feelings at the time.
He also hoped to start an artist colony with his friend and fellow painter, Paul Gaugin, called the Studio of the South.
Unfortunately, the friendship between Van Gogh and Gaugin was unstable (to say the least). After only a few months, a bitter argument between the two ended with Vincent cutting off his ear and nearly bleeding to death. Gaugin left after this incident and the two never saw each other again.
Not long after this terrible episode, the villagers of Arles signed a petition to have Vincent admitted into an asylum. It was extremely difficult for him there because he was not allowed any freedoms, nor was he allowed to paint. After he was released he continued to paint for a while, but voluntarily admitted himself into a different hospital later on where he was allowed many freedoms and even given an extra room in which to set up a studio and paint. It was here that he painted his famous work, Starry Night.
He did not live long after this. On July 29, 1890, Vincent van Gogh died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, believing he was a failure as an artist and having only sold one painting in his lifetime. However, his distinctive style of painting began a whole new form of art called, Expressionism.
The only art review to appear in his lifetime was by art critic, Albert Aurier who wrote:
“What characterizes his work as a whole is its excess of strength, of nervousness, its violence of expression. His color, we know already – unbelievably dazzling, with this metallic, jewel-like quality. In his categorical affirmation of character of things, a powerful figure is revealed: masculine, daring, very often brutal, yet sometimes ingeniously delicate.”
Today, Vincent van Gogh is considered the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt. He completed more than 2,100 works, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings and sketches. His paintings that no one wanted to buy in his lifetime are now worth millions and millions of dollars.
Want to experiment with Expressionism? In my Mixing with the Masters, Volume One lesson on Van Gogh, we learn even more about him and create three pieces inspired by some of his masterworks.
Purchase the entire course (including six master artists) for $60
or just the Van Gogh lesson for $12:
Book Recommendations for Further Study:
Van Gogh’s Letters: The Mind of the Artist in Paintings, Drawings, and Words, 1875-1890Van Gogh: Complete WorksVincent Van Gogh: Portrait of an ArtistVincent’s ColorsCamille and the SunflowersVincent Van Gogh (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists)
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*Linking up with my friends at iHomeschool Network for March Birthday Lessons.
Alisha Gratehouse is an artist, art instructor, minister’s wife, and homeschooling mom of three. Her days are filled with creating, painting, writing, drinking lots of tea, laughing with (and at) her family, and spontaneously bursting forth into song. Alisha is the author of several books including, A Life That Flourishes.