Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life in France, where he died. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime, and was considered a madman and a failure. He became famous after his suicide, and exists in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist “where discourses on madness and creativity converge”. He attained widespread critical, commercial and popular success over the ensuing decades, and is remembered as an important but tragic painter, whose troubled personality typifies the romantic ideal of the tortured artist.

Van Gogh’s stylistic developments are usually linked to the periods he spent living in different places across Europe. He was inclined to immerse himself in local cultures and lighting conditions, although he maintained a highly individual visual outlook throughout. His evolution as an artist was slow, and he was aware of his painterly limitations. He moved home often, perhaps to expose himself to new visual stimuli, and through exposure develop his technical skill.

Vincent van Gogh, Country Lane with Two Figures (1885)
Country Lane with Two Figures (1885)
Vincent van Gogh, Chestnut Tree in Blossom (1887)
Chestnut Tree in Blossom (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Undergrowth (1887)
Undergrowth (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Road Running Beside the Paris Ramparts (1887)
Road Running Beside the Paris Ramparts (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Orchard in Blossom Bordered by Cypresses (1888)
Orchard in Blossom Bordered by Cypresses (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Chestnut Trees in Blossom (1890)
Chestnut Trees in Blossom (1890)
Vincent van Gogh, Les Alyscamps (1888)
Les Alyscamps (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Skull with Burning Cigarette (1885)
Skull with Burning Cigarette (1885)
Vincent van Gogh, Avenue in the Park (1888)
Avenue in the Park (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Dr. Paul Gachet (1890)
Dr. Paul Gachet (1890)
Vincent van Gogh, Exterior of a Restaurant at Asnieres (1887)
Exterior of a Restaurant at Asnieres (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Interior of a Restaurant (1887)
Interior of a Restaurant (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Bridges Across the Seine at Asnieres (1887)
Bridges Across the Seine at Asnieres (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Factories Seen from a Hillside in Moonlight (1887)
Factories Seen from a Hillside in Moonlight (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Outskirts of Paris near Montmartre (1887)
Outskirts of Paris near Montmartre (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, The Rispal Restaurant at Asnieres (1887)
The Rispal Restaurant at Asnieres (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Lilac Bush (1889)
Lilac Bush (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Entrance to the Public Garden in Arles (1888)
Entrance to the Public Garden in Arles (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin (1888)
Self Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Olive Grove (1889)
Olive Grove (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, The Alpilles with Olive Trees in the Foreground (1889)
The Alpilles with Olive Trees in the Foreground (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Avenue of Poplars at Sunset (1884)
Avenue of Poplars at Sunset (1884)
Vincent van Gogh, Flowering Garden (1888)
Flowering Garden (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Vase with Carnations (1886)
Vase with Carnations (1886)
Vincent van Gogh, Pasture in Bloom (1887)
Pasture in Bloom (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Les Alpilles Mountain Landscape near South-Reme (1889)
Les Alpilles Mountain Landscape near South-Reme (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Bulb Fields (1883)
Bulb Fields (1883)
Vincent van Gogh, Gate in the Paris Ramparts (1887)
Gate in the Paris Ramparts (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, House with Sunflowers (1887)
House with Sunflowers (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Vase with Myosotis and Peonies (1886)
Vase with Myosotis and Peonies (1886)
Vincent van Gogh, Entrance to the Moulin de la Galette (1887)
Entrance to the Moulin de la Galette (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Blossoming Acacia Branches (1890)
Blossoming Acacia Branches (1890)
Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses at the Haude Galline near Eygalieres (1889)
Wheat Field with Cypresses at the Haude Galline near Eygalieres (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, The Entrance Hall of Saint Paul Hospital (1889)
The Entrance Hall of Saint Paul Hospital (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of a Young Peasant (1889)
Portrait of a Young Peasant (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Garden with Flowers (1888)
Garden with Flowers (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, The Tarascon Diligence (1888)
The Tarascon Diligence (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Garden Behind a House (1888)
Garden Behind a House (1888)
Vincent van Gogh, Young Woman Knitting (1881)
Young Woman Knitting (1881)
Vincent van Gogh, Shed with Sunflowers (1887)
Shed with Sunflowers (1887)
Vincent van Gogh, Field with Poppies (1889)
Field with Poppies (1889)
Vincent van Gogh, Landscape with Windswept Trees (1884)
Landscape with Windswept Trees (1884)
Vincent van Gogh, Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum (1888)
Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum (1888)

On 27 July 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a 7mm Lefaucheux à broche revolver. There were no witnesses and he died 30 hours after the incident. The shooting may have taken place in the wheat field in which he had been painting, or a local barn. The bullet was deflected by a rib and passed through his chest without doing apparent damage to internal organs – probably stopped by his spine. He was able to walk back to the Auberge Ravoux, where he was attended to by two doctors, but without a surgeon present the bullet could not be removed. The doctors tended to him as best they could, then left him alone in his room, smoking his pipe. The following morning Theo rushed to his brother’s side, finding him in good spirits. But within hours Vincent began to fail, suffering from an untreated infection resulting from the wound. He died in the early hours of 29 July. According to Theo, Vincent’s last words were: “The sadness will last forever”.