Interpretive Resource

Artist Biography: Vincent van Gogh

A concise biography about van Gogh's life and work.

National Gallery of Art. Micro Gallery—National Gallery of Art. Online Content. Washington, D.C., 2004.

Vincent van Gogh
Dutch, 1853-1890
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most popular artists of all time, although his work was scarcely appreciated during his lifetime. His expressive and emotive use of brilliant color and energetic application of paint produced a rich impasto surface that conveys palpable drama.

Van Gogh was born in Holland, the son of a pastor. In the 1870s he was employed in various ways, including as a preacher and, like his brother Theo, as an art dealer. By 1881 van Gogh had begun painting seriously. As an art student he expressed an interest in Japanese prints, which would later become a central influence on his style and artistic outlook. He moved to Paris in 1886 and became part of the avant-garde art community, meeting painters such as Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, and Georges Seurat.

In 1888 van Gogh settled in Arles in the south of France, partially because he thought the warm climate would benefit his poor health (now thought to be a form of epilepsy). He entreated Gauguin to join him but the two parted after a quarrel. The following year van Gogh voluntarily committed himself to a sanatorium at Saint-Rémy; during this period he executed The Olive Orchard (1889). Because of repeated illness he spent much time in the hospital. In 1890 he moved to Auvers, where he made his last works. Van Gogh died, a suicide, in July of that year. Theo, to whom Vincent addressed many touching and revealing letters, provided his brother's sole means of financial support.



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