On this day 163 years ago, Vincent van Gogh was born in his parents’ parsonage in Groot-Zundert, the Netherlands.
His short, nomadic life was characterized by a constant search for a home and a place to belong, a subject that is explored in depth in Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, on view at the Art Institute through May 10.
In honor of Van Gogh’s birthday, here are 11 facts about the iconic artist on the topic of “home.”
1. Van Gogh lived in 37 places in his 37 years. Those 37 places were in 24 towns and cities in four countries: Netherlands, England, France, and Belgium.
2. Van Gogh’s earliest known drawing dates from early 1864 (when he was 10 years old) and features a barn and a farmhouse.
3. As a young man, he punished himself for perceived failures by forgoing the comforts of a home and slept outside or on the floor.
4. When he began painting as a career in the early 1880s, some of his earliest subjects were birds’ nests and peasants’ houses, which he referred to as “human nests."
5. When Van Gogh rented the Yellow House in May, 1888, he intended for it to serve not only as his house, but as a “Studio of the South,” a utopian artists' colony.
6. He chose the furnishings for the Yellow House carefully, describing them to his brother as “nothing precious, but everything from the chair to the painting having character.”
7. Paul Gauguin was the only artist to temporarily live with Van Gogh in the Yellow House. He stayed for a tumultuous nine weeks.
8. The week before Gauguin moved in, Van Gogh was bedridden for two and a half days with nervous exhaustion. When he got up, he immediately began painting the first version of The Bedroom.
9. Van Gogh believed The Bedroom was among his best paintings. Several months after he painted it, he wrote to his brother “when I saw my canvases again after my illness, what seemed to me the best was the bedroom.”
10. Van Gogh’s final paintings were those of peasants’s houses, echoing subjects from early in his career.
11. The final place Van Gogh resided was the Auberge Ravoux, an inn in the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise. His room (number 5) is now a museum dedicated to the artist.
Perhaps most telling, Van Gogh once wrote “painting is a home.” Even though he never found the permanent haven he so desired, it seems he found a home in his artistic endeavors.
Image Credit: Vincent van Gogh. Self Portrait, 1889. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. an Mrs. John Hay Whitney.