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Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in the Netherlands . He was the son of Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, who was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. In his early childhood he was described as intelligent as serious. He spent his childhood in village schools, boarding schools, and public schools. Sometime around 1866, Vincent was first introduced to drawing by his professor Constantijn C. Huysmans. In 1868, however, he abruptly dropped out of school and returned to his parents’ home. After dropping out of school, Vincent became involved in dealing art. For the next several years, he worked in the Netherlands, London, and Paris selling art. Vincent quit selling art in 1876 and became a teacher and a minister’s assistant before working at a bookstore. Vincent next decided he wanted to become a pastor, but failed in his studies.
For much of the 1870’s, it seemed as if Vincent had no real direction in life, bouncing from job to job and dabbling in several different professions without lasting success. Finally, in 1880, after spending time as a missionary in Belgium, Vincent decided to make art his profession. That year, he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art in Brussels, where he studied the mechanics and theory of art.
In the early 1880’s, Vincent began drawing and painting in earnest. Although there was initially little interest in his work, he was occasionally commissioned to make paintings. During this time, however, Vincent’s personal life was in shambles and he was often plagued by fits of depression and self-loathing. Following the 1885 death of his father, Vincent painted what is considered his first major piece, The Potato Eaters. In August of the same year, his work was displayed on exhibition for the first time in The Hague . In November on 1885, Vincent moved to Antwerpen, where he became interested in vivid colors. While in Antwerpen, he studied Japanese Art and applied the techniques he admired to some of his own paintings. During this time, Vincent’s health from poor nutrition, exposure to various diseases, and smoking continued to decline.
In 1886, Vincent moved to Paris and began to associate with other Parisian impressionists such as Émile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. During his time in Paris he adopted a new style that emphasized bright complementary colors, and pointillism. He soon grew weary of the city, however, and moved to Arles in 1888. In Arles , he made over 200 paintings including many world-famous portraits, self-portraits and evening café scenes. Nevertheless, his health continued to decline and he became mentally unstable and susceptible to seizures. In one infamous episode, he cut off his left ear after quarreling with fellow artist Paul Gaugin. Vincent spent 1889 in an insane asylum, where he made over 150 paintings, including the Starry Night, a magical painting that makes the brilliantly lit night sky appear as if it is rolling like waves over a pastoral village. Many of his other paintings also featured dazzling night scenes with glowing stars.
Despite his stay in the asylum, Vincent’s physical and mental health never really improved. On July 27, 1890, Vincent killed himself at Auvers, France. In his lifetime he produced over 800 painting and 700 drawings, only one of which he sold during his lifetime. Although Van Gogh may be the prototype of the “misunderstood artist,” he is considered a genius today, and has influenced generations of painters. In 1990, his painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890), one of his most admired pieces, was sold at auction for 82.5 million dollars. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid for a work of art. Interestingly enough, the buyer of the painting, a Japanese business executive, created a controversy when he expressed his desire to have the painting cremated and buried with him upon his death. Ultimately, the painting was not cremated, but the current location of the painting is a mystery.