Schoolboy, teacher, bookseller, student and preacher: Vincent van Gogh was all of these before he decided to become an artist at the age of 27. Considered to be the greatest Dutch painter after Rembrandt, Vincent Willem van Gogh (March 30, 1853 to July 29, 1890) was a post-impressionist painter whose work, notable for its beauty, emotion and color, highly influenced 20th-century art.
When his attempt to become a preacher didn’t go as planned, van Gogh decided to turn his attention to art. He soon left for Paris and was introduced to the works of Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist artists. He spent the last two years of his life in the south of France, where he produced some of his best-known paintings.
Although he sold only one painting during his lifetime, Van Gogh is now one of the most popular artists to go down in history. His canvases with dense and visible brushstrokes are rendered in a brighter, lighter palette. This emphasized his creative vision which was brought to life in paint. All his artworks provide a direct sense of how the artist viewed each scene, and interpreted them through his eyes, mind and heart. This evocative style has continued to affect artists and movements throughout the 20th century and continues to do so, which guarantees Van Gogh’s importance far into the future. In his lifetime, he completed more than 2,100 works, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings and sketches.
A few of his notable works include ‘Starry Night’, which he painted in an asylum that he was admitted to in Saint-Rémy, France in 1889. Considered to be his pinnacle achievement, this painting features a combination of imagination, memory, emotion and observation. The oil painting on canvas depicts an expressive swirling night sky and a sleeping village, with a large flame-like cypress, which is thought to represent the bridge between life and death that is looming in the foreground.
Another prominent artwork of his includes ‘Fourteen Sunflowers in a Vase’, in which Van Gogh uses a wide spectrum of yellow hues to express the entire lifespan of the flowers- right from their full bloom painted in bright yellow to the wilting and dying of these blossoms that are rendered in melancholy ochre. ‘Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear’ was another piece in which the artist portrays his self-inflicted wound- a portion of his right earlobe that he cut off during a manic episode. He believed that the act of painting would help restore balance to his life, demonstrating the importance of art in his life.
Over time, wide and diverse audiences have come to appreciate his art, and the record-breaking attendance at exhibitions of his works reveal that, within the span of a century, Van Gogh has become perhaps the most recognized painter of all time.