After years of frequent bouts of mental illness and painful anxiety, van Gogh died at age 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound (although no gun was ever found). His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.
Born in Groot-Zundert, Holland, van Gogh began drawing as a child. He did not begin painting until his late twenties; and many of his best-known works were created during the last two years of his life.
In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings and over 1,300 sketches, drawings, watercolors, and prints. His work included landscapes, self portraits, still lifes, portraits, and paintings of sunflowers, wheat fields, and cypresses.
As the son of a pastor, van Gogh was brought up in a cultured and religious atmosphere. He lacked self-confidence and was highly emotional. Between 1860 and 1880, when he decided to become an artist, van Gogh had had two unhappy romances and had worked unsuccessfully as a clerk in a bookstore, an art salesman, and a preacher in the Borinage where he was dismissed for overzealousness.
He remained in Belgium to study art, determined to give happiness by creating beauty. In 1885, he painted his first major work "The Potato Eaters." His palette at the time consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later work.
In March 1886, he went to Paris to join his brother Théo, the manager of Goupil's gallery. In Paris, van Gogh studied with Cormon; met Pissarro, Monet, and Gauguin; and began to lighten his very dark palette and to paint in the short brushstrokes of the Impressionists.
His nervous temperament made him a difficult companion and night-long discussions combined with painting all day undermined his health. So, he decided to move to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His work grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.
Gauguin did join him but with disastrous results. Near the end of 1888, an incident led Gauguin to leave Arles. Van Gogh pursued him with an open razor, was stopped by Gauguin, and ended up cutting a portion of his own ear lobe off. Van Gogh then began to alternate between fits of madness and lucidity and was sent to the asylum in Saint-Remy for treatment.
In May 1890, he seemed much better and went to live in Auvers-sur-Oise under the care of Dr. Gachet. Two months later he was dead, having shot himself "for the good of all."
During his brief career he had sold one painting. His finest works were produced in less than three years in a technique that grew more impassioned in brushstroke; in intense and symbolic color, in surface tension, and in the movement of form and line. Van Gogh's blended form and content in a dramatic. emotional, and powerful way. Many believed van Gogh was trying to express either his struggle against madness or his comprehension of the spiritual essence of man and nature.
Below are six paintings that van Gogh created. Sophia and Olivia each looked at them for a period of time, and then shared what they remembered about them.
The Starry Night, 1889.
=> The picture takes place at nighttime, and most of the picture is of a dark blue sky.
=>There are seven stars and a moon that has a piece missing.
=> The stars are yellow and they have a glow around them. The further you get away from the star, the more you can see of the blue sky.
=> In some places around the star, it turns green where the paints mixed.
=> The moon is gold and the glow around it is yellow.
=> Van Gogh painted the sky so it looks like a sea with stars. It is a very, very dark blue with, blue,and yellow stripes.
=>you can see the strokes of the brush as it curls up.
=>On the left of the painting there are some tall bushes that reaches up to the stars.
=>Under neath the blue sky there are some greenish blue hills that even have strikes of bright yellow.
=>Below the hills you can see a small town with a church that is white, light blue, and grey the church also has a tall tower.
=>A few houses down there is a house that has a tin roof that hat has red stripes that looks out of place in the darker colors.
=>There are quite a few houses in the town, some of them also have red stripes on the roof.
=>Around and in the town there are a lot of green trees that make a line to the town.
=>In some places you can see the paint where dried to make ridges.
=>I think this is one of my favorite paintings because it seems so magical and beautiful.
=>There are quite a few houses in the town, some of them also have red stripes on them.
=> You can see the paint strokes. There are lots of them.
=> The moon is a really pretty gold color. If you look closely, you can ridges of paint.
=> There are some trees which are dark green and brown.
=> The sky with the stars looks like an ocean.
=> There's a small mountain. I can see only parts of it...but it looked like a small mountain with snow on top of it.
=> There's a village or town with lots of houses.
=> There's one big church. It's a dull, grayish, silver color.
=> The houses were different sizes, but all had windows. You could see light inside the windows.
=> The hills look like they are waves - kind of like the sky - crashing down on the village.
=> The stars were gold, orange, and red.
=> The sky is a dark blue and there are specks of black paint.
=> In the picture, there's a man with reddish, orange hair that's kind of far off his forehead and it's swept backwards.
=>His beard and mustache is more vivid than his hair.
=>The backdrop is a dark blue and in some places blue. You can see the brush strokes in many places.
=>He's wearing a dark blue painter's frock, a little bit lighter than the backdrop.
=> The frock is tied in the front with a blue cord and it also has a collar.
=> Underneath he is wearing a white, flowy shirt; and you can't see his pants.
=> He has greenish-blue eyes, and is face is sort of pale with undertones of green.
=> In one hand, he is holding a brown paint palette with his thumb through a hole to hold it.
=> There is a little niche for his brushes and you can see the wooden part of them, but not the bristles.
=> On the palette, you can see splashes of pink, light green, dark green, blue, yellow, and orange.
=> You can't see what or who he is looking at, and he's not smiling or frowning...just looking ahead.
=> This is not how I imagined Vincent van Gogh...I imagined him with brown hair.
=>The person in the picture has a red beard.
=> He has five brushes.
=> On his face, you can see a little bit of a shadow.
=> The cloak-like cape is dark blue...the same color as the background.
=> There's a section near his shoulder that's a lighter green.
=> There's a paint palette with different colors on it.
=> His hair is a lighter color than his beard.
=> His eyes are a blueish-green - kind of like an ocean or a sea.
=> His nose is kind of pointed.
=> He has short hair.
=> There are different paints on the palette - orange, pink, green, yellow.
Village Street and Steps with Five Figures, 1890.
=> In the painting, it looks like it's spring. There are a lot of greens and blues and summer colors.
=> In the back of the picture, there are a couple of houses. One of them is white with greenish shutters. The one to the left of it is a grayish color and not as pretty.
=> There's a path leading up to a set of stairs, and the stairs lead up to the white house.
=> The stairs are golden and very pretty.
=> Coming down the stairs is a man in a black hat with a cane.
=> Coming towards the stairs are two women - the one on the left is taller than the one on the right.
=> The one on the left has a black hat and the one on the right has a white cap.
=> They have greenish-blue shirts that are slightly different from one another, and black skirts.
=> The road is a dusty brown that isn't very wide.
=> Behind the two women to the left, slightly, are two girls with blonde hair and whiteish dresses. They both have straw hats, but the one on the left has a blue ribbon around the brim. The other one doesn't have a ribbon.
=> The sky is a pretty blue.
=> To the right of the two women in the black skirts is a pond. The pond is blue and behind is a brick wall that leads up to the house.
=> There are fourteen steps and at the top of the steps are two houses - one of the houses has five doors and the other house has one door.
=> There is a cliff that is near the bottom of the steps and there appears to be a door.
=> There looks like there's a waterfall that goes into the pond.
=> There's a man on the last couple steps and he has a cane and he's wearing a black cap.
=> There are two women on the path. They both have black skirts. The right one has a green top; the left one has a dark blue one. The one who has a blue shirt or top has a black hat; and the other one has a white hat.
=> A couple of feet behind them are two girls and they are wearing white dresses. One of them has a black ribbon and the other one has a brown ribbon.
=> By the door in the cliff, there are some blue metal looking things. On top of the brick wall, there looks like there is glass on there for some reason.
=> On the hill, there looks like there is another building - maybe a barn.
=> The picture is of a bedroom. The walls are blue, but they are peeling so you can see gray underneath.
=> The floor is a mint green, but it is also peeling in big spots so you can see the gray floor underneath.
=> In the right corner of the room, there is a bed with white sheets, a white pillow, and red comforter.
=> On the wall, next to the bed there are two paintings. The one on top is of a man with a red beard that might be Vincent van Gogh.
=> In front of the headboard, there is a row of wood with pegs on it. On the pegs are some of his clothes.
=> Above the pegs is a picture of a big tree.
=> By his bed, tilted slightly, is a brown chair.
=> To the left of the pegs is a green window with green shutters and a green curtain on the other side.
=> On the top of the wall on the left side, there is another picture with a black frame.
=> Underneath the painting with the black frame, is a brown, square four-legged table with one drawer in the front. On it, is a salt and pepper shaker set, a bowl with a pitcher of water for washing your face, and a jug of water that goes into the green cup next to it. There's also a plate with a piece of bread on it.
=> To the right of the table, and a little behind, is what looks like a closet door. To the right of the closet is another brown chair.
=> There are two chairs with made woven straw.
=> There is a bed a red blanket and two small white pillows.
=> The bed has white sheets.
=> There are four pictures and one of the pictures has a man.
=> There is a mirror above the table.
=> The table is beside the bed.
=> On the table is a water pitcher for washing your face.
=> There's a plate on the table with a piece of bread and butter. There's a cup by the side of the plate.
=> The walls are a light blue. They floor was made of wood and painted a mint green.
=> The door is a darkish-blue.
=> The window has green curtains and greenish shutters.
=> In the picture there is a pale blue sky with one or two clouds. It appears to be spring because the ground is a bright green and you can see spots of brown earth.
=> In the green grass, you can see little spots of color where there are flowers. Some of them have stems and other ones you can't see. There are green, blue, and pink ones.
=> There are also 16 silver trees, and on the branches are pretty buds.
=> Behind 15 of the trees, there is a channel of water that cuts through the ground. On the other side is one tree.
=> Behind the canal is another strip of green grass, and there's another canal. On the canal is a steamboat with smoke coming out of its very tall stack.
=> In the distance, there appears to be a village or town because you can see the tops of the houses.
=> The top of the steam ship is a bright red.
=> It's not a defined ship, it's kind of lumpy.
=> The water in the canal is a mixture of blue, green, and a little bit of pink.
=> The picture isn't very clear, so the colors sort of blend together into the pretty picture.
=> Kind of at the bottom of the page, there was writing at both ends of the page and in the middle.
=> In the back of the picture, there's a boat that has steam coming out of it.
=> There's big tall buildings - probably like a city.
=> The trees are white; and they have white and pink flowers.
=> The grass is a normal grass color, and there are lots of flowers and weeds.
=> There is a small river.
=> There are lots of yellow flowers.
=> The sky was a light blue with no clouds. It kind of looked liked clouds because of the steam from the boat.
=> There were a few trees.
=> In the picture, there is a bright yellow wall with thin cracks in it.
=> Pushed up against the yellow wall, is a table covered in a light blueish/gray cloth.
=> In the center of the table is a black teapot.
=> The teapot looks old-fashioned and it has two handles.
=> To the left of the black teapot is a white pitcher with light blue checkers.
=> In front of it and a little to the left of the picture is a black bowl with a gold rim around it.
=> In the center of the black bowl, is a black cup with a gold rim around it and a red streak.
=> In front of the black teapot, are three oranges or lemons.
=> To the right of the teapot is a gold-colored bowl, and in it is a pitcher that's white on the bottom and is black all the way up. The handle has a strip of red on it. It also has pretty designs on it - teardrop and kind of a wave shape. At the rim are little golden dots.
=> Behind it is a black pitcher with more designs, but these are different and more wavy.
=> In the middle of the table there is a black teapot with another small teapot that would be used for holding milk. There are some white streaks on both the teapots.
=> On the left of it, there is a pitcher with darkish/lightish squares on them.
=> In front of the pitcher is bowl with gold trim on it.
=> In the middle of the black soup bowl it is white; and it has gold trim on it.
=> On the right of the black teapot, there is another pitcher that's white on the bottom and black the rest of the way up. It has rooster designs and a gold handle and gold rim with red on it.
=> In front of it, is a gold/yellow plate or bowl. In the middle of the plate or bowl is a cup that's mostly white, but around the middle rim is black with gold dots on it. It has designs coming off the bottom of the black part.
=> In front of the teapot, there are three lemons.
=> The wall behind it is bright yellow with cracks in it.
=> The table has a light blue tablecloth on it.