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Vincent Van Gogh


Vincent van Gogh’s intense colours and furious brushwork express the sublime vibrancy of nature amid the rhythm of the seasons. The human figures sowing and reaping in so many of his works tend to express the insignificance of human labour, driven endlessly by the natural cycle. Van Gogh’s correspondence reveals his rich emotional life, but his life as an artist was not an easy one. He produced the bulk of his oeuvre during two frenetic years of work in Arles in the south of France, overshadowed by illness.

Van Gogh was born in Zundert in the southern Netherlands. After working as an art dealer and as a preacher he decided, in 1880, to become an artist. He lived in Brussels and in various parts of the Netherlands before moving to Paris in 1886. There his art-dealer brother, Theo, introduced him to Impressionist painting and avant-garde artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Signac and Paul Gauguin. His palette brightened radically and he experimented with modern styles.

In 1888, Van Gogh moved to Arles, depicting the Provençal landscape and people. Paul Gauguin joined him in Arles later that year and the two artists worked together briefly before Van Gogh suffered his first mental breakdown in December 1888, and their collaboration had a dramatic ending. A few months later he committed himself to the St-Rémy asylum, where he stayed for a year, continuing to paint and draw profusely.

In 1888, 1889 and 1890 Van Gogh was represented at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, and in 1890 he was invited to show with Les XX in Brussels. His paintings started to receive some acclaim, but Van Gogh was deeply frustrated by his recurrent bouts of mental illness. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on 29 July 1890, in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. The Ateneum’s Street, Auvers-sur-Oise (1890) is one of his last works.