Vincent van Gogh’s vivid use of color, confident brushwork, and stylized shapes are some of the biggest influences on Expressionism, especially in twentieth century modern art. Considered second only to Rembrandt in greatness, the Post-Impressionist master was virtually unknown throughout his lifetime. Whether or not he would’ve achieved renown during his later years is impossible to predict, as he himself cut that lifetime short. Here are a few facts about one of the most well-known artists in the history of art:
1. He was the second Vincent van Gogh in his family.
- He had a brother named Vincent who died a stillborn exactly a year before Vincent the artist was born.
- His name and birthdate are written on his brother’s tombstone, which might explain why he was so serious and sad.
2. At some point in his life, Van Gogh became religious.
- It started after he suffered a nervous breakdown due to his landlady’s daughter rejecting his marriage proposal. Afterward, he tossed out all his books except the Bible.
- In later years, he was preaching and ministering to the sick among a mining community in Southern Belgium. The miners called him the “Christ of the Coal Mines.”
3. He was attracted to women whom he believed he could change.
- One example was his widowed cousin Kate, who fled his affections to Amsterdam.
- Another example was the alcoholic Clasina Maria Hoornik, a prostitute and his eventual model and lover. Hoornik returned to prostitution eventually and their affair ended when Van Gogh’s family threatened to stop sending him money if he didn’t leave her.
4. His artistic career lasted only a decade.
- And yet, in those ten years, he created 2,100 paintings.
- Most of the 860 oil paintings that are part of his oeuvre were completed during the final two years of his life.
5. He was supported financially and emotionally by his younger brother, the art dealer Theo.
- Vincent’s thoughts about life, art, and everything in between survive in the hundreds of letters he wrote Theo between 1872 and 1890.
- Vincent even died in Theo’s arms in the hospital, several days after shooting himself in the chest.
6. After both Vincent and Theo died, Theo’s widow Johanna avidly kept the memory of both alive.
- Johanna collected those paintings of Vincent’s that hadn’t been lost or thrown away in crates by his mother and exhibited them.
- She also had the correspondence between Theo and Vincent published. Theo kept all of Vincent’s letters while Vincent kept few of Theo’s.
Apart from painting some of the world’s best-known masterpieces, Vincent van Gogh is well-known for having eaten turpentine, cutting off his own ear, and having been generally depressed. But beyond all those facts was a sensitive, melancholy soul capable of making paintings that are considered the height of human expression.