10 Questions About Vincent Van Gogh

05 Dec 2021 | 0 Comments

He may be one of the most important and well-loved painters in the history of art, but there are many questions often left unanswered about the life of Vincent van Gogh. 

So, we've put together some of the most important questions people have about the mysterious impressionist icon, with some answers that you might find quite shocking...

Where Was Van Gogh Born?


Vincent was born on March 30th, 1853, as the oldest child of six children to a Dutch Minister father and an artist mother


He was especially close with his brother Theodore, who went on to become an art dealer and one of Vincent's biggest artistic supporters


From 1864, van Gogh was sent to boarding school in Zevenbergen, where despite good teaching, he was deeply unhappy and remained disillusioned with all education in his youth


In 1869, he was sent to train as an art dealer in The Hague and was subsequently sent to work in London. This was said to be a very happy time for Vincent, but he was dismissed from the role after just a year.


Before he became a painter, van Gogh was also a missionary. 


He was increasingly religious during his early life and in 1879 he took a position as a missionary in an impoverished coal-mining district in Belgium. This career - like his others - was short-lived, as he soon returned home under his parents’ wishes.


Throughout his life, Vincent and his brother Theo exchanged regular letters, which are the greatest source of insight into his life remaining today



How Old Was Van Gogh When He Started Painting?


Although his mother had encouraged art from an early age, van Gogh did not start painting till age 27, showing it is never too late to pursue your passions


He started to paint seriously following letters from his brother, who saw the sketches Vincent sent him and encouraged him to pursue art


Despite disapproval from his parents, Van Gogh took his brother's advice and soon started to receive painting and drawing lessons from his uncle, the artist Anton Mauve.


Following an argument with his parents, van Gogh moved to The Hague to pursue art, where his brother Theo continued to financially support his endeavours.



Did Van Gogh Live in Paris?


After a few years consistently painting duller works, van Gogh started to develop his more well-known colourful style in Paris from 1886-1888, which at the time offered extensive training and exhibition opportunities to artists


His brother Theo, who was working as an art dealer in Paris, introduced Vincent to prominent impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Emile Bernard, which inspired him to use brighter colours in his works. Paris became a hub for van Gogh to share ideas with other artists


In Paris Van Gogh started to paint more picturesque scenes, such as café's, countryside scenes, and floral still life's, meaning his art became more modern overall


Despite gaining great artistic progress in Paris, he soon grew tired of city life and soon moved to Provence to achieve a more serene life.



What Was Van Gogh’s Style?



Despite trying many styles of art in his short life, van Gogh is known most for his dramatic brush strokes, bold use of colour, and the feeling of movement in his works. 


His works as primarily identified as part of the post-impressionism movement and he favoured oil as a medium


Typical paintings of his presented landscapes, cityscapes, and floral scenery.


However, van Gogh is also known for his many figurative works, in which he produced over 35 self-portraits and these are used as the primary basis for how we imagine his appearance today



How Many Paintings Did Van Gogh Paint?


Despite a short career of 10 years, van Gogh produced nearly 900 paintings in his lifetime, as well as many drawings and sketches


At this rate, van Gogh would have produced a new painting roughly every 36 hours!


Despite producing many works, van Gogh only sold 1 painting during his lifetime, The Red Vineyard which he sold to Anna Boch, the sister of his friend.


Despite only officially selling one painting, it is said that Vincent traded his art in exchange for supplies or food, meaning many of his paintings were only ‘unofficially’ sold.



Did Van Gogh Chop Off His Ear?


Today, van Gogh is most known not just for his great works but also for his missing ear.


Many do not know the true story of how it was cut off.


During his time living in southern France, van Gogh invited fellow artist Paul Gauguin to live with him and collaborate on art.


Despite producing great artworks together, the two artists struggled to get along due to differing views on art

When Gauguin threatened to leave one day, van Gogh became angry and threatened Gauguin with a razor. 


Despite not hurting Gauguin, van Gogh did end up slicing his own lobe off with the razor and proceeded to wrap and present it to a local prostitute. 


This incident ultimately led to him being admitted to a local hospital and a great decline in his mental health



Did Van Gogh Suffer From Mental Health Problems?


After a decline in mental health, van Gogh admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.


Despite this, he remained a prolific painter, producing roughly 150 paintings throughout the year. In fact, some of van Gogh's best works were painted during this period.


Vincent was allowed access to the hospital gardens and his own studio during his stay, allowing him to continue his work. However, his mental health continued to decline, leading to incidents such as eating his own oil paint and drinking turpentine.


Despite trouble, one of his most known works, Almond Blossoms, was painted by Vincent to celebrate the birth of his brother Theo's newborn son, named after Vincent himself. Vincent gifted the painting to Theo for the occasion.


The piece was inspired by Japanese printmaking and featured blossom branches, which were loved by van Gogh himself. 


Van Gogh left the hospital in 1890 and spent the last months of life outside of Paris.




When Did Van Gogh Die?


During the last few months of his life, van Gogh started to gain financial worries and his mental illness continued to decline. 


This led van Gogh to take his own life, shooting himself in the chest but not dying instantly. Instead, he died around a day later with his brother by his side.


Despite creating many works in his short life to not much success, ironically Van Gogh's death was the start of an increase in fame for the artist


In fact, Vincent's sister-in-law, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger (Theo's wife) is to thank for van Gogh's fame


Following both Vincent and Theo's deaths, Johanna spent her life donating works of Vincent's to exhibitions, writing a history of the van Gogh family, and translating and publishing the letters between the two brothers.


Thanks to Johanna, the mystery and artworks of van Gogh spread greatly through Europe and then the world, leading to his great legacy today.




Where is The Van Gogh Museum?


Opened in 1973, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is the number one source of all things van Gogh!


Following Johanna's death in 1925, her son Vincent Willem loaned his uncle's paintings to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. However, due to van Gogh's growing fame, many people called for a dedicated museum just for him.


This led to Vincent Willem transferring van Gogh's entire collection to the van Gogh foundation, and the State of the Netherlands began building the Van Gogh Museum.


The museum is now dedicated to preserving van Gogh's legacy, making his art and life story accessible for anyone to view.


Today, the museum offers many exhibitions, including a permanent collection of van Gogh's masterpieces, including Sunflowers (1889), The Potato Eaters (1885) and Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat (1887)



What Are Van Gogh’s Most Important Artworks?


Despite a huge collection of paintings, there as standout pieces in the collection which have found fame. These are:


The Starry Night (1889) - Painted from memory during his time at the psychiatric hospital, The Starry Night is one of van Gogh's most iconic pieces and one of the best-known artworks to this day. The piece highlights van Gogh's signature swirling style and bold use of colour


Sunflowers (1888) - van Gogh's most known still life, Sunflowers is one of 5 large-scale sunflower vase paintings created by the painter. The piece is currently on view at the Van Gogh Museum


Café Terrace at Night (1888) - painted during van Gogh's time in Arles, Café Terrace at Night was not originally signed by the artist but was mentioned in multiple letters to his brother Theo. The site of the painting has since been remodeled in the early 90s to resemble how it looked in the painting.