Vincent Willem van Gogh (Dutch: [ˈvɪnsɛnt ˈʋɪləm vɑn ˈɣɔx] ( listen);[note 1] (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work had far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. His paintings include portraits, self portraits, landscapes, still lifes, olive trees and cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers. He was largely ignored by critics until after his early death in 1890. The only substantial exhibitions held during his lifetime were showcases in Paris and Brussels. The first published full-length article came in 1890, when Albert Aurier described him as a Symbolist. The widespread and popular realisation of his significance in the history of modern art did not begin until his adoption by the Fauves and German Expressionists in the mid-1910s.
Vincent van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents and spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers before travelling to The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught in England at Isleworth and Ramsgate. Although he drew as a child, he did not paint until his late twenties; most of his best-known works were completed during the last two years of his life. He was deeply religious as a younger man and aspired to be a pastor and from 1879 worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he sketched people from the local community. His first major work was 1885's The Potato Eaters, from a time when his palette mainly consisted of sombre earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid colouration that distinguished his later paintings. In March 1886, he relocated to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists.
Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the region's strong sunlight. His paintings grew brighter in colour, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolours, drawings, sketches and prints.
After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness he died aged 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, art historians see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence wrought through illness. His late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art critic Robert Hughes, "longing for concision and grace".
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Self Portrait" by Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith galvanized readers with their astonishing Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, a book acclaimed for its miraculous research and overwhelming narrative power. Now Naifeh and Smith have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable, and ultimately heartbreaking portSteven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith galvanized readers with their astonishing Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, a book acclaimed for its miraculous research and overwhelming narrative power. Now Naifeh and Smith have written another tour de force—an exquisitely detailed, compellingly readable, and ultimately heartbreaking portrait of creative genius Vincent van Gogh.
Working with the full cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Naifeh and Smith have accessed a wealth of previously untapped materials. While drawing liberally from the artist’s famously eloquent letters, they have also delved into hundreds of unpublished family correspondences, illuminating with poignancy the wanderings of Van Gogh’s troubled, restless soul. Naifeh and Smith bring a crucial understanding to the larger-than-life mythology of this great artist—his early struggles to find his place in the world; his intense relationship with his brother Theo; his impetus for turning to brush and canvas; and his move to Provence, where in a brief burst of incandescent productivity he painted some of the best-loved works in Western art.
The authors also shed new light on many unexplored aspects of Van Gogh’s inner world: his deep immersion in literature and art; his erratic and tumultuous romantic life; and his bouts of depression and mental illness.
Though countless books have been written about Van Gogh, and though the broad outlines of his tragedy have long inhabited popular culture, no serious, ambitious examination of his life has been attempted in more than seventy years. Naifeh and Smith have re-created Van Gogh’s life with an astounding vividness and psychological acuity that bring a completely new and sympathetic understanding to this unique artistic genius whose signature images of sunflowers and starry nights have won a permanent place in the human imagination.
868 pages of text, 953 pages with notes...more
Hardcover, 950 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Random House (first published 2011)