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His painting called The Starry Night inspired 1971’s chart-topping song, Vincent. When the American singer songwriter Don McLean was asked how he wounded up writing the piece, he said, “I was sitting on the veranda one morning, reading a biography of Van Gogh, and suddenly I knew I had to write a song arguing that he wasn’t crazy.”
After Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh is said to be the greatest Dutch painter. That’s why it’s hard to imagine that his paintings were only celebrated after he’s gone. He may have struggled and lived a short life but his legacy and contribution to the world of art will live forever.
Written in the Stars
Born on March 30, 1853, Vincent Willem van Gogh, or simply Vincent Van Gogh was the eldest of the six living children of a country minister, Theodorus van Gogh, and an artist, Anna Cornelia Carbentus. He had two brothers and three sisters, namely Theo, Cor, Anna, Elizabeth and Willemien.
Coincidence or not, Van Gogh was born exactly a year after his mother gave birth to their first son, a stillborn who was also named Vincent. He was young, yet his name and birthday were already engraved in his dead brother’s gravestone. With a life starting with a harsh irony, Van Gogh grew up a melancholic child. He excelled in school especially in language courses, but for some reason, he decided to quit.
The Start of His Art
Van Gogh’s exposure to art started in 1982 when his Uncle Cornelius got him a job at Goupil & Cie., a firm of art dealers in The Hague.
When his brother Theo followed suit in 1983, Van Gogh was transferred to the London branch. He made out the most out of his stay and visited famous art institutions such as the British Museum and the National Gallery, which house the works of François Millet and Jules Breton whom he admires.
He also found a new love for reading and started to admire the works of George Eliot and Charles Dickens. Despite his growing interest in art, he became less enticed with his job. In 1876, Goupil eventually dismissed him.
Van Gogh suffered from a breakdown after his dismissal from the art firm and a failed marriage proposal to Eugenie Loyer.
The series of rejections made him religious. Van Gogh decided to return to England and work as a teacher in a Methodist boys’ school in Ramsgate. He tried his luck at the School of Theology in Amsterdam, believing he would do better as a minister. He later on tried the Church of Belgium as well, but these endeavors were unsuccessful.
With Theo’s financial support, Van Gogh finally took the path of being an artist. He realized that he could still serve the Lord through his paintings. In an article published by theartstory.org, Van Gogh was quoted, “To try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another, in a picture.”
His paintings made him emotionally balanced despite the fact that he was virtually incapable of making money through it.
The Offered Ear
December of 1888 saw the start of Van Gogh’s fall. His emotional health was taking a huge hit and he was also suffering from physical illness. Theo grew increasingly alarmed so he sent Paul Gauguin to look after Van Gogh in Arles.
One night, in the midst of an argument, Gauguin walked out on Van Gogh. It was when he turned around that he saw the razor in Van Gogh’s hand. Turns out that Van Gogh visited a brothel, cut his ear and offered it to a prostitute named Rachel, telling her to “keep this object carefully.”
The End of His Life
After making a scene in a brothel, the people of Arles signed a petition forcing him to move to an asylum located at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Later on, he was invited to a paint exhibit in Brussels where he got to showcase several paintings, which included the Irises, and the legendary Starry Night.
Van Gogh eventually relocated to Auvers-sur-Oise outside of Paris to seek Dr. Paul Gachet’s help. Gachet was a physician and an avid supporter of the Impressionist movement. He included painting activities as part of Van Gogh’s recovery. He may have been on his way towards healing until Theo said that his financial support would be scarce for a while.
On July 27, 1890, Van Gogh committed suicide by gunshot. Despite being able to go back to his room, he died 48 hours later. When Theo heard the news he rushed to his brother’s deathbed who mentioned that his final words were, “The sadness will last forever.”
In his short life, Van Gogh created a total of 900 paintings, 1,100 drawings and sketches.
Here are quotes from Vincent Van Gogh worth remembering:
Vincent van Gogh Quotes
“Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.” – Vincent van Gogh
“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” – Vincent van Gogh
“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.”- Vincent van Gogh
“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke”- Vincent van Gogh
“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”- Vincent van Gogh
“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”- Vincent van Gogh
“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”- Vincent van Gogh
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”- Vincent van Gogh
“The sadness will last forever.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I try more and more to be myself, caring relatively little whether people approve or disapprove.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”- Vincent van Gogh
“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”- Vincent van Gogh
“It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly’.”- Vincent van Gogh
“The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else, but keep heart, it will turn out all right.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Art is to console those who are broken by life.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Exaggerate the essential, leave the obvious vague.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I wish they would take me as I am.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God’s help I shall succeed.”- Vincent van Gogh
“There is peace even in the storm.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I will not live without love.”- Vincent van Gogh
“To suffer without complaint is the only lesson we have to learn in this life.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Someday death will take us to another star.”- Vincent van Gogh
“In spite of everything, I shall rise again; I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.”- Vincent van Gogh
“The heart of men is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths, it has its pearls too.”- Vincent van Gogh
“The sunflower is mine, in a way.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Whoever loves much, performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Let us keep courage, and try to be patient and gentle. Let us not mind being eccentric, and make a distinction between good and evil.”- Vincent van Gogh
“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.”- Vincent van Gogh
“When I have a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion, then I go out and paint the stars.”- Vincent van Gogh
“It is a pity that, as one gradually gains experience, one loses one’s youth.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.”- Vincent van Gogh
“But for one’s health as you say, it is very necessary to work in the garden and see the flowers growing.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Don’t lose heart if it’s very difficult at times, everything will come out all right and nobody can in the beginning do as he wishes.”- Vincent van Gogh
“One must work and dare if one really wants to live.”- Vincent van Gogh
“As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.”- Vincent van Gogh
“What color is in a picture; enthusiasm is in life.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I shouldn’t precisely have chosen madness if there had been any choice, but once such a thing has taken hold of you, you can’t very well get out of it.”- Vincent van Gogh
“We spent our whole lives in unconscious exercise of the art of expressing our thoughts with the help of words.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Seek only light and freedom and do not immerse yourself too deeply in the worldly mire.”- Vincent van Gogh
“The lamps are burning and the starry sky is over it all.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.”- Vincent van Gogh
“An artist needn’t be a clergyman or a church warden, but he must have a warm heart for his fellow men.”- Vincent van Gogh
“What preys on my mind is simply this one question: what am I good for, could I not be of service or use in some way?”- Vincent van Gogh
“Success is sometimes the outcome of a whole string of failures.”- Vincent van Gogh
“We are surrounded by poetry on all sides…”- Vincent van Gogh
“Both she and I have grief enough and trouble enough, but as for regrets – neither of us have any.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort and disappointment and perseverance.”- Vincent van Gogh
“The more ugly, old, nasty, ill, and poor I become the more I want to get my own back by producing vibrant, well-arranged, radiant color.”- Vincent van Gogh
“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”- Vincent van Gogh
“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me.”- Vincent van Gogh
“How rich art is, if one can only remember what one has seen, one is never empty of thoughts or truly lonely, never alone.”- Vincent van Gogh
“That I was not suited to commerce or academic study in no way proves that I should also be unfit to be a painter.”- Vincent van Gogh
“The victory one would gain after a whole life of work and effort is better than one that is gained sooner.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I work as diligently on my canvases as the laborers do in their fields.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate.”- Vincent van Gogh
“I hope to depart in no other way than looking back with love and wistfulness and thinking, oh paintings that I would have made..”- Vincent van Gogh
“Conscience is a man’s compass” – Vincent van Gogh
“Painting is a faith, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion.” – Vincent van Gogh
“I see drawings and pictures in the poorest of huts and the dirtiest of corners.”- Vincent van Gogh
“One can speak poetry just by arranging colors well, just as one can say comforting things in music.” – Vincent van Gogh