Van Gogh: For Better or Worse

Updated: Jan 13

Van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1889

As of recently, there has been much attention on the work of Van Gogh because of the hype created by the interactive exhibitions across the nation. That, and partially the fact that he is one of the most famous masters of all time. I don’t know. Personally, I am not a huge fan of his work. It sounds like some sort of crime saying it, but it’s just the truth. I find more appreciation for Baroque artists like Rembrandt and Rubens that created standards and principles for future generation. It’s not necessarily the biblical aspect, which was heavily funded by the catholic church, but the intensive and rich quality of portraits with significance behind its subject. But let’s carry on, before I forget about Van Gogh.

That said, I do not mean to be unappreciative of Van Gogh’s tremendous developments and achievements for the art world as a whole. Modern art would be very different without him.

Born and raised in the Netherlands, he was homeschooled by his mother in his earlier years. As he got older, Van Gogh was sent to a village school, where he grew unhappy. While he failed to find success in the classroom, he grew an interest in the arts as his mother encouraged him to practice drawing. It was during those years that he developed an impressionist style. After his school years, unsuccessful attempts in various careers started piling up. By the end of the 1880s, he found himself back at his parents’ house. But soon after, he began to follow his brother Theo’s suggestion to take up art. Initially taking lessons with Willem Roelofs, he later joined a more traditional art school in Brussels.

Van Gogh, The Potato eaters, 1885

Producing much work the consecutive years, his first major success occured in 1885 with The Potato Eaters. His paintings failed to sell, so Theo suggested to incorporate more color to meet the demands of the impressionist period. In response, he went to Paris where he encountered the modern work of Monet, Cezanne, Manet, and Gaugin. He realized that indeed he needed to brighten up his dark palette and started experimenting with more colors.

Van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889

His health began to decline as he took very poor care of himself. Hospitalized in the early part of 1886, he went on to spend some time studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp after he got out. Though due to continuous poor health, an unstable attitude, and overall dislike of the teaching, he had a falling out with the school and left to Paris to live with his brother Theo.

Between the time of then and 1889, Van Gogh went into a downward spiral of heavy use of alcohol and smoking. However, during those years, he further developed his work that became to be known as post impressionism. During a psychotic episode involving personal issues with his roommate Paul Gauguin (another dominant painter), Van Gogh used a razor to cut off part of his ear. Though the entirety of this event remains rather a mystery. After this incident, he became enrolled in an asylum because of his eccentric personality and unstable moods. In the following year, he went on to create some of his most iconic works like The Starry Night and Cypresses.

Van Gogh, Wheatfield With Crows, 1890

In May of 1890, Van Gogh left the asylum and moved to Auvers-sur-Oise in France to be closer his doctor and Theo. That’s where he resided during his last few months before shooting himself on July 27, dying two days later. His last words were, “The sadness will last forever”.

Despite living in sadness and never getting profound recognition for his work, Van Gogh got to do what he loved, making art most of the 37 years he was alive. His legacy goes down one of the leading influences of the modern art era, beloved by most everyone around the world. Just not me.

Auberge Ravoux, where Vincent Van Gogh

spent his last 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oise, France