Vincent Van Gogh is a name most people recognize. Despite being virtually unknown and unsuccessful in his lifetime, more than a century later, his masterpieces have revolutionized how modern-day art is presented and perceived.
Born on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands, van Gogh's early years were influenced by his family's commitment to religion and art. Despite a passion for drawing from a young age, he initially pursued a career in theology and later worked in art galleries.
Van Gogh's artistic journey truly began in his late twenties when he decided to dedicate his life to painting. His early works were influenced by dark, somber tones, reflecting the struggles he faced in his personal life. In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he was exposed to the vibrant art scene and the works of impressionists like Pissarro and Gauguin, significantly impacting his style.
Van Gogh was a very private person. If it weren’t for his letters, we would know little to nothing about him. He wrote over 2,000 letters and had 240 sketches within them. The letters included everything from his deepest secrets to his intimate life. The letters were later published as a book!!
Back then, most people avoided writing about anything too personal in letters. Not Vincent! He told his brother everything. For example, he fell in love with his neighbor’s daughter, Margaret, a woman who was 12 years older than Van Gogh and suffered from anxiety and mood swings. She ended up drinking poison in an attempt to end her life because of how much her family disapproved of Van Gogh. She ended up surviving and moved away to prevent the villagers from finding out and gossiping!
Prior to meeting Margaret, Van Gogh met a pregnant prostitute and her daughter. He picked them up from the street and moved them into the little studio where he was living. After the baby was born they lived happily for a while until Sien started working again and things went awry.
Ok- now what about Van Gogh’s ear? Even if you have never seen one of his paintings before, you’ve heard about the ear. There is a lot of mystery and speculation surrounding why Vincent cut the lower part of his left ear off. Afterward, he allegedly wrapped up the ear and gave it to a prostitute at a nearby brothel.
After this incident, he voluntarily checked himself into the psychiatric hospital of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence - where he stayed for a year. It was noted that he experienced seizures, anxiety, insomnia, and hallucinations. Vincent’s mental health fluctuated while in the asylum. During one period of extreme confusion, he ate some of his oil paint!!
Recent scientific analysis of Van Gogh's painting materials and letters showed that the artist may have had high levels of lead in his system. This could have been a possible explanation for Van Gogh's erratic behavior and mental instability.
The official cause of Van Gogh's death was listed as a self-inflicted gunshot wound and it was assumed that he had committed suicide. However, there were several inconsistencies in the story that raised questions about the true nature of his death. He had been showing signs of improved mental health after his discharge from the psychiatric hospital and was even found to have a letter in his pocket, indicating plans for the future. An eyewitness account also reports that a local farmer had been seen in the fields near to where Van Gogh was on the day of the shooting and was known to own a gun. It is believed that farmer may have had a grudge against van Gogh due to a previous altercation.
The truth of Van Gogh's death may never be known, but his legacy lives on through his powerful and enduring paintings, which continue to inspire and move people to this day!