Our Artists

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh’s career as a painter lasted only 10 years, during which he painted no less than 800 paintings. Even though Van Gogh was inspired by a large number of movements (The Hague school, the Barbizon school, impressionism, pointillism, japonism...), he developed a characteristic style in which he used colour in unusual ways. Above and beyond the myth of the cursed artist, Van Gogh, who lived for and through his painting, was, above all, a forerunner for future generations of painters.


Vincent Van Gogh was the first child of a couple marked by the loss of a child stillborn a year to the day before him. The memory of this child, which bore the same name as him and whose tomb he visited during his childhood, haunted Vincent Van Gogh all his life.

1869-1880: early experiences and disillusionment

Van Gogh was born in Zundert (Netherlands) and spent the first part of his life between the Netherlands, Belgium and England, where he tried a variety of jobs, interspersed by returns to the family home (often for financial reasons). At the same time, he practised drawing.

These experiences often ended in failure and disillusionment and doubt for Van Gogh and caused conflict with his family.

He was an art dealer in The Hague and London, and a teacher and preacher in England. From 1878 to 1880, Van Gogh was a preacher in the “Borinage”, a poor mining region in Southern Belgium. He took his faith and devotion to the extreme, living in the simplest possible manner, which greatly upset the church authorities and led to his resignation.

It was at this time that he decided to dedicate himself fully to painting. He was 27 years old.

1880-1885: a late-flowering vocation


Van Gogh was self-taught, and learned a great deal by copying the painters he admired, such as Millet, Daumier and Corot.

He did however have some academic teaching, at the
Academy of Fine Art in Brussels, where he followed courses in drawing, anatomy and perspective (1880-1881) and the School of Fine Art in Antwerp (1885-1886). Vincent was also trained by his cousin, the painter Mauve , in The Hague (1882-1883).

Vincent’s most productive year during this period was
1885. He had returned to live with his parents in Nuenen and completed nearly 200 drawings, watercolours and paintings. He was interested in simple country people and portrayed them in many of his works. This was the year in which he painted The potato eaters, which is considered to be his first masterpiece.

1886-1888: the Paris years

In 1886, Van Gogh decided to join his brother, Théo, who was working in a gallery in Paris. They lived together in Montmartre. Van Gogh met the impressionists and was inspired by them. He became a friend of Toulouse-Lautrec, Emile Bernard and Signac.

His paintings were exhibited in cafés, but living with Théo proved difficult. Vincent reproached him for not managing to sell his paintings. In addition, Van Gogh was not suited to the frenetic life of Paris, and he left for Southern France in 1888.

1888-1890: Provence

Fascinated by the light and colours of the South, Van Gogh painted with great energy: these was the period of the Sunflowers and night-time paintings (Terrace of a café at night; Starry night over the Rhone). Vincent’s plan in Arles was to set up a community of artists. The arrival of Gauguin and the cut ear episode put an end to his aspirations.

He was interned at the Saint-Paul de Mausole hospice in Saint Rémy de Provence, but was able to carry on working: it was here that he painted Starry night and the Irises.

Last days in Auvers-sur-Oise

On 20 May 1890, Van Gogh arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise, a village of painters where Daubigny, Pissaro and Cézanne had already stayed, and where Doctor Gachet lived, a collector of art and an acquaintance of Théo Van Gogh.

This was Van Gogh’s
most productive period. He painted 70 paintings at the rate of virtually one a day: the streets and roofs of Auvers, the church and the vast plains were immortalised by the artist.

Van Gogh enjoyed the peace of Auvers, but these moments of tranquillity could not dispel his
doubt and solitude, and the feeling of being too heavy a burden on his brother.
On 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the heart and died 2 days later.

Vincent and Théo

Vincent and Théo were very close. The correspondence between the two brothers shows this (see Lettres à son frère Théo, (Letters to his brother Théo) Gallimard). When Vincent decided to take up painting, Théo supported him morally and financially and continued to do so until his death. In exchange for this money and for the equipment that Théo sent him, Vincent sent his brother all his paintings in the hope that he would sell them. Officially, only one painting was sold in Van Gogh’s lifetime: The Red Vineyard (1890).

Théo died 6 months after Vincent. In 1914, Johanna, Théo’s widow, had the two brothers’ tombs placed side by side in Auvers-sur-Oise.


Les mangeurs de pommes de terre, (The Potato eaters) 1885
Crâne de squelette fumant une cigarette, (Skull smoking a cigar) 1885
Autoportrait, (Self-portrait) 1887
Les Tournesols, (Sunflowers) Arles, June 1888
Terrasse de café le soir, (Terrace of a café at night) September 1888
La vigne rouge, (Red vine) 1888
Pêchers en fleurs, "Souvenir de Mauve", (Peach trees in blossom, “Memory of Mauve”) 1888
Nuit étoilée sur le Rhône, (Starry night over the Rhone) September 1888
L'Arlésienne, 1888
La Maison Jaune, (The Yellow house) 1888
La chambre à Arles, (Bedroom in Arles) 1888
Autoportrait à l'oreille bandée, (Self-portrait with a bandaged ear) 1889
Les Iris, (Irises) May 1889
L'église d'Auvers-sur-Oise, (The church at Auvers-sur-Oise) 1890
Portrait du Docteur Gachet, (Portrait of Doctor Gachet) 1890
Le jardin de Daubigny, (The garden at Daubigny)1890
Champ de blé aux corbeaux, (Wheatfield with crows) 1890

Useful links

- Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

- See Van Gogh’s works at the
Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands

- See Van Gogh’s works at the
Musée d'Orsay

- To find out more about the
Van Gogh and Monticelli exhibition that took place until January 2009 at the “Centre de la vieille charité” in Marseille:
>> Read the
notice on the “Réunion des Musées Nationaux” website

Auberge Ravoux known as the “Maison de Van Gogh” in Auvers-sur-Oise, France

- See Van Gogh’s paintings painted in Auvers-sur-Oise on the town’s

Saint-Paul de Mausole Monastery in Saint-Rémy de Provence

- To find out more about Van Gogh’s life and work:
>> visit the website
>> visit the website
La Galerie de Vincent Van Gogh
>> read Vincent Van Gogh’s letters on the
Van Gogh's letters website (in English)


Nationality(ies) : Dutch
Born on : 30/03/1853
Died on : 29/07/1890
Profile : Designer, Painter
Artistic current(s) : Post impressionism
Theme(s) covered : Still life, Landscapes - Nature, Portraits - Characters

Vincent Van Gogh, Autoportrait au chapeau de paille, 1887