Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

Self-portrait (1887)
Birth nameVincent Willem van Gogh
Born30 March 1853(1853--)
Zundert, The Netherlands
Died29 July 1890 (aged 37)
Auvers-sur-Oise, France
Famous worksThe Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, The Starry Night, Irises, Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 185329 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist.[1] His paintings and drawings include some of the world's best known, most popular and most expensive pieces.

Van Gogh spent his early life working for a firm of art dealers. After a brief spell as a teacher, he became a missionary worker in a very poor mining region. He did not embark upon a career as an artist until 1880. Initially, van Gogh worked only with sombre colours, until he encountered Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism in Paris. He incorporated their brighter colours and style of painting into a uniquely recognizable style, which was fully developed during the time he spent at Arles, France. He produced more than 2,000 works, including around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches, during the last ten years of his life. Most of his best-known works were produced in the final two years of his life, during which time he cut off part of his left ear following a breakdown in his friendship with Paul Gauguin. After this he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide.

The central figure in Van Gogh's life was his brother Theo, who continually and selflessly provided financial support. Their lifelong friendship is documented in numerous letters they exchanged from August 1872 onwards. Van Gogh is a pioneer of what came to be known as Expressionism. He had an enormous influence on 20th century art, especially on the Fauves and German Expressionists.

The Dutch pronunciation of Vincent van Gogh's name is ?·i. It is also often pronounced as [ˈvɪnsənt væn ˈɡɒf] or [ˈvɪnsənt vɑn ˈɡɔx] in British English and [ˈvɪnsənt væn ˈɡoʊ] in US English.


For a timeline, see Vincent van Gogh chronology.

Early life (1853 – 1869)

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert, a village close to Breda in the Province of North Brabant in the southern Netherlands.[2] Van Gogh was the son of Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, who was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. He was given the same name as his grandfather—and a first brother stillborn exactly one year before. It has been suggested[3] that being given the same name as his dead elder brother might have had a deep psychological impact on the young artist, and that elements of his art, such as the portrayal of pairs of male figures, can be traced back to this. The practice of reusing a name in this way was not uncommon. The name "Vincent" was often used in the Van Gogh family: the baby's grandfather was called Vincent van Gogh (1789-1874); he had received his degree of theology at the University of Leiden in 1811. Grandfather Vincent had six sons, three of whom became art dealers, including another Vincent, referred to in Van Gogh's letters as "Uncle Cent." Grandfather Vincent had perhaps been named after his own father's uncle, the successful sculptor Vincent van Gogh (1729-1802).[4] Art and religion were the two occupations to which the Van Gogh family gravitated.

Four years after Van Gogh was born, his brother Theodorus (Theo) was born on 1 May 1857. There was also another brother named Cor and three sisters, Elisabeth, Anna and Wil. As a child, Van Gogh was serious, silent and thoughtful. In 1860 he attended the Zundert village school, where the only teacher was Catholic and there were around 200 pupils. From 1861 he and his sister Anna were taught at home by a governess, until 1 October 1864, when he went away to the elementary boarding school of Jan Provily in Zevenbergen, the Netherlands, about 20 miles away. He was distressed to leave his family home, and recalled this even in adulthood. On 15 September 1866, he went to the new middle school, Willem II College in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Constantijn C. Huysmans, who had achieved a certain success himself in Paris, taught Van Gogh to draw at the school and advocated a systematic approach to the subject. In March 1868 Van Gogh abruptly left school and returned home. His comment on his early years was: "My youth was gloomy and cold and sterile...."[5]

Art dealer and preacher (1869 – 1878)

In July 1869, at the age of fifteen, he obtained a position with the art dealer Goupil & Cie in The Hague through his Uncle Vincent ("Cent"), who had built up a good business which became a branch of the firm. After his training, Goupil transferred him to London in June 1873, where he lodged at 87 Hackford Road, Brixton[6] and worked at Messrs. Goupil & Co., 17 Southampton Street.[7] This was a happy time for Van Gogh: he was successful at work, and was already, at the age of 20, earning more than his father.[8] He fell in love with his landlady's daughter, Eugénie Loyer,[9] but when he finally confessed his feeling to her, she rejected him, saying that she was already secretly engaged to a previous lodger. Vincent became increasingly isolated and fervent about religion. His father and uncle sent him to Paris, where he became resentful at how art was treated as a commodity, and he manifested this to the customers. On 1 April 1876, it was agreed that his employment should be terminated.

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The house where Van Gogh stayed in Cuesmes in 1880; it was while living here that he decided to become an artist.

His religious emotion grew to the point where he felt he had found his true vocation in life, and he returned to England to do unpaid work, first as a supply teacher in a small boarding school overlooking the harbour in Ramsgate; he made some sketches of the view. The proprietor of the school relocated to Isleworth, Middlesex. Vincent decided to walk to the new location. This new position did not work out, and Vincent became a nearby Methodist minister's assistant in wanting to "preach the gospel everywhere."

At Christmas that year he returned home, and then worked in a bookshop in Dordrecht for six months, but he was not happy in this new position and spent most of his time in the back of the shop either doodling, or translating passages from the Bible into English, French, and German.[10] His roommate from this time, a young teacher called Görlitz, later recalled that Vincent ate frugally, preferring to eat no meat.[11][12] In an effort to support his wish to become a pastor, his family sent him to Amsterdam in May 1877 where he lived with his uncle Jan van Gogh, a rear admiral in the navy.[13] Vincent prepared for university, studying for the theology entrance exam with his uncle Johannes Stricker, a respected theologian who published the first "Life of Jesus" available in the Netherlands. Vincent failed at his studies and had to abandon them. He left uncle Jan's house in July 1878. He then studied, but failed, a three-month course at the Protestant missionary school (Vlaamsche Opleidingsschool) in Laeken, near Brussels.

Borinage and Brussels (1879 – 1880)

In January 1879 Van Gogh got a temporary post as a missionary in the village of Petit Wasmes[14] in the coal-mining district of Borinage in Belgium, bringing his father's profession to people felt to be the most wretched and hopeless in Europe. Taking Christianity to what he saw as its logical conclusion, Vincent opted to live like those he preached to, sharing their hardships to the extent of sleeping on straw in a small hut at the back of the baker's house where he was billeted;[15] the baker's wife used to hear Vincent sobbing all night in the little hut.[16] His choice of squalid living conditions did not endear him to the appalled church authorities, who dismissed him for "undermining the dignity of the priesthood." After this he walked to Brussels,[17] returned briefly to the Borinage, to the village of Cuesmes, but acquiesced to pressure from his parents to come "home" to Etten. He stayed there until around March the following year,[18] to the increasing concern and frustration of his parents. There was considerable conflict between Vincent and his father, and his father made enquiries about having his son committed to a lunatic asylum[19] at Geel.[20] Vincent fled back to Cuesmes where he lodged with a miner named Charles Decrucq,[21] with whom he stayed until October. He became increasingly interested in the everyday people and scenes around him, which he recorded in drawings.

In 1880, Vincent followed the suggestion of his brother Theo and took up art in earnest. In autumn 1880, he went to Brussels, intending to follow Theo's recommendation to study with the prominent Dutch artist Willem Roelofs, who persuaded Van Gogh (despite his aversion to formal schools of art) to attend the Royal Academy of Art. There he not only studied anatomy, but the standard rules of modelling and perspective, all of which, he said, "you have to know just to be able to draw the least thing." Vincent wished to become an artist while in God's service as he stated, "to try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another in a picture."[22]

Etten (1881)

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Still-Life, arranged by Anton Mauve and executed by Van Gogh, December 1881

In April 1881, Van Gogh went to live in the countryside with his parents in Etten and continued drawing, using neighbours as subjects. Through the summer he spent much time walking and talking with his recently widowed cousin, Kee Vos-Stricker, the daughter of his mother's older sister and Johannes Stricker, who had shown real warmth towards his nephew.[23] Kee was seven years older than Vincent, and had an eight-year-old son. Vincent proposed marriage, but she flatly refused with the words: "No, never, never" (niet, nooit, nimmer).[24] At the end of November he wrote a strong letter to Uncle Stricker,[25] and then, very soon after, hurried to Amsterdam where he talked with Stricker again on several occasions,[26] but Kee refused to see him at all. Her parents told him "Your persistence is disgusting".[27] In desperation he held his left hand in the flame of a lamp, saying, "Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame."[27] He did not clearly recall what happened next, but assumed that his uncle blew out the flame. Her father, "Uncle Stricker," as Vincent refers to him in letters to Theo, made it clear that there was no question of Vincent and Kee marrying, given Vincent's inability to support himself financially.[28] What he saw as the hypocrisy of his uncle and former tutor affected Vincent deeply. At Christmas he quarreled violently with his father, even refusing a gift of money, and immediately left for The Hague.[29]

Drenthe and The Hague (1881 – 1883)

In January 1882 he settled in The Hague, where he called on his cousin-in-law, the painter Anton Mauve, who encouraged him towards painting. He soon fell out with Mauve, however, perhaps over the issue of drawing from plaster casts; but Mauve appeared to go suddenly cold towards Vincent, not returning a couple of his letters. Vincent guessed that Mauve had learned of his new domestic relationship with the alcoholic prostitute, Clasina Maria Hoornik (born February 1850, The Hague;[30] she was known as Sien) and her young daughter.[31] Van Gogh had met Sien towards the end of January.[32] Sien had a five year-old daughter, and was pregnant. She had already had two other children who had died, although Vincent was unaware of this.[33] On 2 July, Sien gave birth to a baby boy, Willem.[34] When Vincent's father discovered the details of this relationship, considerable pressure was put on Vincent[35] to abandon Sien and her children. Vincent was at first defiant in the face of his family's opposition.

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Vincent van Gogh: View from his atelier in The Hague, watercolour

His uncle Cornelis, an art dealer, commissioned 20 ink drawings of the city from him; they were completed by the end of May.[36] In June Vincent spent three weeks in a hospital suffering gonorrhoea.[37] In the summer, he began to paint in oil. In autumn 1883, after a year with Sien, he abandoned her and the two children. Vincent had thought of moving the family away from the city, but in the end he made the break.[38] It is possible that lack of money had pushed Sien back to prostitution; the home had become a less happy one, and Vincent may have felt family life was irreconcilable with his artistic development. When Vincent left, Sien gave her daughter to her mother, and baby Willem to her brother, and moved to Delft and then Antwerp.[39] Willem remembered being taken to visit his mother in Rotterdam at around the age of 12, where his uncle tried to persuade Sien to marry in order to legitimize the child. Willem remembered his mother saying: "But I know who the father is. He was an artist I lived with nearly 20 years ago in The Hague. His name was Van Gogh." She then turned to Willem and said "You are called after him."[40] Willem believed himself to be Van Gogh's son, but the timing of the birth makes this unlikely.[41] In 1904 Sien drowned herself in the river Scheldt.[39]

Van Gogh moved to the Dutch province of Drenthe in the north of the Netherlands, and in December, driven by loneliness, to stay with his parents who were by then living in Nuenen, North Brabant, also in the Netherlands.

Nuenen (1883 – 1885)

In Nuenen, he devoted himself to drawing, paying boys to bring him birds' nests[42] and rapidly[43] sketching the weavers in their cottages. In autumn 1884, a neighbour's daughter, Margot Begemann, ten years older than Vincent, accompanied him constantly on his painting forays and fell in love, which he reciprocated (though less enthusiastically). They agreed to marry, but were opposed by both families. Margot tried to kill herself with strychnine and Vincent rushed her to the hospital.[44]

On 26 March 1885, Van Gogh's father died of a stroke. Van Gogh grieved deeply. For the first time there was interest from Paris in some of his work. In spring he painted what is now considered his first major work, The Potato Eaters (Dutch De Aardappeleters). In August his work was exhibited for the first time, in the windows of a paint dealer, Leurs, in The Hague. In September he was accused of making one of his young peasant sitters pregnant,[45] and the Catholic village priest forbade villagers from modelling for him.

During his time in Nuenen Van Gogh's palette was of sombre earth tones, particularly dark brown, and he showed no sign of developing the vivid colouration that distinguishes his later, best known work. (When Vincent complained that Theo was not making enough effort to sell his paintings in Paris, Theo replied that they were too dark and not in line with the current style of bright Impressionist paintings.) During his two-year stay in Nuenen, he completed numerous drawings and watercolours, and nearly 200 oil paintings.

Antwerpen (1885 – 1886)

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Skull with a Burning Cigarette , oil on canvas, 1885.
In November 1885 he moved to Antwerpen and rented a little room above a paint dealer's shop in the Rue des Images.[46] He had little money and ate poorly, preferring to spend what money his brother Theo sent to him on painting materials and models. Bread, coffee, and tobacco were his staple intake. In February 1886 he wrote to Theo saying that he could only remember eating six hot meals since May of the previous year. His teeth became loose and caused him much pain.[47] While in Antwerpen he applied himself to the study of colour theory and spent time looking at work in museums, particularly the work of Peter Paul Rubens, gaining encouragement to broaden his palette to carmine, cobalt and emerald green. He also bought some Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts in the docklands, which he imitated and incorporated into the background of some of his paintings.[48] It was while he was living in Antwerpen that Vincent began to drink absinthe heavily.[49] He was treated by Dr Cavenaile whose surgery was near the docklands,[50] possibly for syphilis;[51] the treatment of alum irrigations and sitz baths was jotted down by Vincent in one of his notebooks.[52]

In January 1886 he matriculated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Antwerpen, studying painting and drawing. Despite disagreements over his rejection of academic teaching, he nevertheless took the higher-level admission exams. For most of February he was ill, run down by overwork and a poor diet (and excessive smoking).

Paris (1886 – 1888)

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54, Rue Lepic, Paris

In March 1886 he moved to Paris to study at Fernand Cormon's studio, and in May 1886 his mother and sister Wil moved to Breda.[53] The brothers first shared Theo's Rue Laval apartment on Montmartre. In June they took a larger flat at 54 Rue Lepic, further uphill. As there was no longer the need to communicate by letters, less is known about Van Gogh's time in Paris than earlier or later periods of his life.

For some months Vincent worked at Cormon's studio where he frequented the circle of the British-Australian artist John Peter Russell, and met fellow students like Émile Bernard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who used to meet at the paint store run by Julien "Père" Tanguy, which was at that time the only place to view works by Paul Cézanne.

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Vincent van Gogh, pastel drawing by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1887.

It was not difficult to see and study Impressionist works in Paris at this time. In 1886, for example, two large vanguard exhibitions were staged, the 8th and final exhibition of the Impressionists and an exhibition of the Artistes Indépendants. In these shows Neo-Impressionism made its first appearance; works of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac were the talk of the town. Though Theo, too, kept a stock of Impressionist paintings in his gallery on Boulevard Montmarte, by artists including Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, Vincent evidently had problems acknowledging these recent ways to see and paint. Conflicts arose, and at the turn of 1886 to 1887 Theo found shared life with Vincent "almost unbearable," but in spring 1887 they made peace. Then Vincent set out for a campaign in Asnières, where he became personally acquainted with Paul Signac. Vincent and his friend Emile Bernard, who lived with parents in Asnières, adopted elements of the "pointillé" (pointillism) style, where many small dots are applied to the canvas, resulting in an optical blend of hues, when seen from a distance. The theory behind this also stresses the value of complementary colours[54] (for example, blue and orange), which form vibrant contrasts and enhance each other, when juxtaposed.[55]

In November 1887, Theo and Vincent met and befriended Paul Gauguin, who had just arrived in Paris.[56] Towards the end of the year, Vincent arranged an exhibition of paintings by himself, Bernard, Anquetin and (probably) Toulouse-Lautrec in the Restaurant du Chalet, on Montmartre. There, Bernard and Anquetin sold their first painting, and Vincent exchanged work with Gauguin, who soon departed to Pont-Aven. But the discussions on art, artists and their social situation started during this exhibition continued, and expanded to visitors of the show like Pissarro and his son, Signac and Seurat. Finally in February 1888, when Vincent felt worn out from life in Paris, he left the city, having painted over 200 paintings during his two years there. Only hours before his departure, accompanied by Theo, he paid his first and only visit to Seurat in his atelier.[57]

Arles (February 1888 – May 1889)

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Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, August 1888 (Neue Pinakothek, Munich).

Van Gogh arrived on 21 February 1888, at the railroad station in Arles, crossed Place Lamartine, entered the city through the Porte de la Cavalerie, and took quarters a few steps further, at the Hôtel-Restaurant Carrel, 30 Rue Cavalerie. He had ideas of founding a Utopian art colony. His companion for two months was the Danish artist, Christian Mourier-Petersen. In March, he painted local landscapes, using a gridded "perspective frame." Three of his pictures were shown at the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. In April he was visited by the American painter, Dodge MacKnight, who was resident in Fontvieille nearby.

On 1 May he signed a lease for 15 francs a month to rent the four rooms in the right hand side of the "Yellow House" (so called because its outside walls were yellow) at No. 2 Place Lamartine. The house was unfurnished and had been uninhabited for some time so he was not able to move in straight away. He had been staying at the Hôtel Restaurant Carrel in the Rue de la Cavalerie, just inside the medieval gate to the city, with the old Roman Arena in view. The rate charged by the hotel was 5 francs a week, which Van Gogh regarded as excessive. He disputed the price, and took the case to the local arbitrator who awarded him a twelve franc reduction on his total bill.[58] On 7 May he moved out of the Hôtel Carrel, and moved into the Café de la Gare.[59] He became friends with the proprietors, Joseph and Marie Ginoux. Although the Yellow House had to be furnished before he could fully move in, Van Gogh was able to use it as a studio.[60] His major project at this time was a series of paintings intended to form the décoration for the Yellow House.

In June he visited Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. He gave drawing lessons to a Zouave second lieutenant, Paul-Eugène Milliet, who also became a companion. MacKnight introduced him to Eugène Boch, a Belgian painter, who stayed at times in Fontvieille (they exchanged visits in July). Gauguin agreed to join him in Arles. In August he painted sunflowers; Boch visited again. On 8 September, upon advice from his friend the station's postal supervisor Joseph Roulin, he bought two beds,[61] and he finally spent the first night in the still sparsely furnished Yellow House on 17 September.[62];

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The Red Vineyard (November 1888), Pushkin Museum, Moscow). Sold to Anna Boch, 1890.

On 23 October Gauguin eventually arrived in Arles, after repeated requests from Van Gogh. During November they painted together. Uncharacteristically, Van Gogh painted some pictures from memory, deferring to Gauguin's ideas in this. Their first joint outdoor painting exercise was conducted at the picturesque Alyscamps.[63] It was in November that Van Gogh painted The Red Vineyard.

In December the two artists visited Montpellier and viewed works by Courbet and Delacroix in the Museé Fabre. However, their relationship was deteriorating badly. They quarrelled fiercely about art. Van Gogh felt an increasing fear that Gauguin was going to desert him, and what he described as a situation of "excessive tension" reached a crisis point on 23 December 1888, when Van Gogh stalked Gauguin with a razor and then cut off the lower part of his own left ear lobe, which he wrapped in newspaper and gave to a prostitute named Rachel in the local brothel, asking her to "keep this object carefully."[64] Gauguin left Arles and did not see Van Gogh again. Van Gogh was hospitalised and in a critical state for a few days. He was immediately visited by Theo (whom Gauguin had notified), as well as Madame Ginoux and frequently by Roulin. In January 1889 Van Gogh returned to the "Yellow House", but spent the following month between hospital and home, suffering from hallucinations and paranoia that he was being poisoned. In March the police closed his house, after a petition by thirty townspeople, who called him fou roux ("the redheaded madman"). Signac visited him in hospital and Van Gogh was allowed home in his company. In April he moved into rooms owned by Dr. Rey, after floods damaged paintings in his own home. On 17 April Theo married Johanna Bonger in Amsterdam.

Saint-R̩my (May 1889 РMay 1890)

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Pen drawing by van Gogh, executed after the painting
On 8 May 1889 Van Gogh, accompanied by a carer, the Reverend Salles, committed himself to the mental hospital of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in a former monastery in Saint Rémy de Provence, a little less than 20 miles from Arles. The monastery was a mile and a half out of the town and was in an area of cornfields, vineyards, and olive trees. The hospital was run by a former naval doctor, Dr. Théophile Peyron, who had no specialist qualifications. Theo van Gogh arranged for his brother to have two small rooms, one for use as a studio, although in reality they were simply adjoining cells with barred windows.[65] During his stay there, the clinic and its garden became his main subject. At this time some of his work was characterised by swirls, as in one of his best-known paintings, The Starry Night. He took some short supervised walks, which gave rise to images of cypresses and olive trees, but because of the shortage of subject matter due to his limited access to the outside world, he painted interpretations of Millet's paintings, as well as his own earlier work. In September 1889 he painted two new versions of the Bedroom in Arles, and in February 1890 he painted four portraits of L'Arlésienne (Madame Ginoux), based directly on a charcoal sketch Gauguin had produced when Madame Ginoux had sat for both artists at the beginning of November 1888.[66]

In January 1890, his work was praised by Albert Aurier in the Mercure de France, and he was called a genius. In February, invited by Les XX, a society of avant-garde painters in Brussels, he participated in their annual exhibition. When, at the opening dinner, Henry de Groux, a member of Les XX, insulted Van Gogh's works, Toulouse-Lautrec demanded satisfaction, and Signac declared, he would continue to fight for Van Gogh's honour, if Lautrec should be surrendered. Later, when Van Gogh's exhibit was on display with the Artistes Indépendants in Paris, Monet said that his work was the best in the show.[67]

Auvers-sur-Oise (May – July 1890)

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Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold for 82.5 million US dollars, current whereabouts unknown
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L’Auberge Ravoux, in Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh spent his final months and where he died. It is now a restaurant.
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Probably van Gogh's final view of the outside world (looking through a window at the Auberge Ravoux)

In May 1890, Van Gogh left the clinic and went to the physician Dr. Paul Gachet, in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, where he was closer to his brother Theo. Dr. Gachet had been recommended to him by Pissarro, as he had previously treated several artists and was an amateur artist himself. Van Gogh's first impression was that Gachet was "sicker than I am, I think, or shall we say just as much."[68] Later Van Gogh did two portraits of Gachet in oils, as well as a third—his only etching, and in all three emphasis is on Gachet's melancholic disposition. In his last weeks at Saint-Rémy Van Gogh's thoughts had been returning to his "memories of the North",[69] and several of the approximately 70 oils he painted during his 70 days in Auvers-sur-Oise—such as The Church at Auvers—are reminiscent of northern scenes.

Wheat Field with Crows—an example of the unusual double square canvas-size he used in the last weeks of his life—with its turbulent intensity is often, but mistakenly, thought to be Van Gogh's last work (Jan Hulsker lists seven paintings after it). is a more likely candidate. There are also seemingly unfinished paintings, such as Thatched Cottages by a Hill.

Van Gogh's depression deepened, and on 27 July 1890, at the age of 37, he walked into the fields and shot himself in the chest with a revolver. Without realizing that he was fatally wounded he returned to the Ravoux Inn where he died in his bed two days later. Theo hastened to be at his side and reported his last words as "La tristesse durera toujours" (French for "the sadness will last forever"). Vincent was buried at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise.[70] Theo had contracted syphilis—though this was not admitted by the family for many years—and not long after Vincent's death, was himself admitted to hospital. He was not able to come to terms with the grief of his brother's absence, and died six months later on 25 January at Utrecht. In 1914 Theo's body was exhumed and re-buried beside Vincent.

Medical records

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Vincent and Theo van Gogh's graves at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise.

Van Gogh cut off the lobe of his left ear during some sort of seizure on 24 December 1888.[71] Mental problems afflicted him, particularly in the last few years of his life. During some of these periods he did not paint, or was not allowed to. There has been much debate over the years as to the source of Van Gogh's mental illness and its effect on his work. Over 150 psychiatrists have attempted to label his illness, and some 30 different diagnoses have been suggested.[72]

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Still Life with Absinthe (1887)
Diagnoses which have been put forward include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, syphilis, poisoning from swallowed paints, temporal lobe epilepsy and acute intermittent porphyria. Any of these could have been the culprit and been aggravated by malnutrition, overwork, insomnia, and a fondness for alcohol, and absinthe in particular.

Medical theories have even been proposed to explain Van Gogh's use of the colour yellow. One theory holds that Van Gogh's colour vision might have been affected by his love of absinthe, a liquor that contains a neurotoxin called thujone. High doses of thujone can cause xanthopsia: seeing objects in yellow. However, a 1991 study indicated that an absinthe drinker would become unconscious from the alcohol content long before consuming enough thujone to develop yellow vision. Another theory suggests that Dr. Gachet might have prescribed digitalis to Van Gogh as a treatment for epilepsy. There is no direct evidence that he ever took digitalis, but he did paint Gachet with some cut flower stalks of Common Foxglove, the plant from which the drug is derived. Those who take large doses of digitalis often report yellow-tinted vision or yellow spots surrounded by coronas (like those in the The Starry Night) and changes in overall colour perception.[73]

A recently proposed illness is lead poisoning. The paints he used were lead-based, and one of the symptoms of lead poisoning results in a swelling of the retina, which may have lead to the halo effect seen in many of Van Gogh's later works.[74] It has been suggested that Van Gogh suffered from the brain disorder, Hypergraphia. The disorder causes a near constant overwhelming urge to write and is associated with epilepsy or mania.[75]


Van Gogh drew and painted water-colours while he went to school, though very few of these works survive, and his authorship is challenged for many claimed to be from this period. When he committed himself to art as an adult (1880), he started at the elementary level by copying the "Cours de dessin," edited by Charles Bargue and published by Goupil & Cie. Within his first two years he began to seek commissions, and in spring 1882, his uncle, Cornelis Marinus (owner of a renowned gallery of contemporary art in Amsterdam) asked him to provide drawings of the Hague; Van Gogh's work did not prove up to his uncle's expectations. Despite this, Uncle Cor (or "C.M. " as he was referred to by his nephews) offered a second commission, specifying the subject matter in detail, but he was once again disappointed with the result.

Nevertheless, Van Gogh persevered with his work. He improved the lighting of his atelier (studio) by installing variable shutters, and experimented with a variety of drawing materials. For more than a year he worked hard on single figures—highly elaborated studies in "black and white," which at the time gained him only criticism. Nowadays they are appreciated as his first masterpieces. In spring 1883, he embarked on multi-figure compositions, based on the drawings. He had some of them photographed, but when his brother commented that they lacked liveliness and freshness, Vincent destroyed them and turned to oil painting. Already in autumn 1882, Theo had enabled him to do his first paintings, but the amount Theo could supply was soon spent. Then, in spring 1883, Vincent turned to renowned Hague School artists like Weissenbruch and Blommers, and received technical support from them, as well as from painters like De Bock and Van der Weele, both Hague School artists of the second generation. When he moved to Nuenen, after the intermezzo in Drenthe, he started various large size paintings, but he destroyed most of them himself. The Potato Eaters and its companion pieces, The Old Tower on the Nuenen cemetery and The Cottage, are the only ones that have survived. After a visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Vincent was aware that many faults of his paintings were due to a lack of technical experience. So he went to Antwerp, and later to Paris to improve his technical skill.

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This piece from the Hermitage Museum was painted six weeks before the artist's death, at around eight o'clock on 16 June 1890, as astronomers determined by Venus's position in the painting.[76]

More or less acquainted with impressionist and neo-impressionist techniques and theories, Van Gogh went to Arles to develop these new possibilities. But within a short time, older ideas on art and work reappeared: ideas like doing series on related or contrasting subject matter, which would reflect the purpose of art. Already in 1884 in Nuenen he had worked on a series that was to decorate the dining room of a friend in Eindhoven. Similarly in Arles, in spring 1888 he arranged his Flowering Orchards into triptychs, began a series of figures which found its end in The Roulin Family, and finally, when Gauguin had consented to work and live in Arles side by side with Vincent, he started to work on the The Décoration for the Yellow House, probably the most ambitious effort he ever undertook. Most of his later work is elaborating or revising its fundamental settings.

The paintings from the Saint-Rémy period are often characterized by swirls and spirals. The patterns of luminosity in these images have been shown[77] to conform to Kolmogorov's statistical model of turbulence. At various times in his life Van Gogh painted the view from his window; this culminated in the great series of paintings of the wheat field he could see from his adjoining cells in the asylum at Saint-Rémy.


Since his first exhibits in the late 1880s, Van Gogh's fame grew steadily, among his colleagues and among art critics, dealers and collectors. After his death, memorial exhibitions were mounted in Brussels, Paris, The Hague and Antwerp. In the early 20th century, the exhibitions were followed by vast retrospectives in Paris (1901 and 1905), Amsterdam (1905), Cologne (1912), New York City (1913) and Berlin (1914). These prompted a noticeable impact over a new generation of artists.

The French Fauves, including Henri Matisse, extended both his use of colour and freedom in applying it, as did German Expressionists in the Die Brücke group. The 1950s' Abstract Expressionism is seen as benefiting from the exploration Van Gogh started with gestural marks. In 1957, Anglo-Irish artist Francis Bacon based several paintings on reproductions of Van Gogh's The Painter on his Way to Work (which had been destroyed during World War II).


The Blooming Plumtree (after Hiroshige), (1887)

Portrait of Père Tanguy, (1887)

Cherry Tree, (1888)

The Old Mill, (1888)

The Harvest, Arles, (1888)

Bridge at Arles, (1888)

View of Arles with Irises, (1888)

The Rhônebarken, (1888)

Cypresses, (1889)

Cornfield with Cypresses, (1889)

View of Arles (Flowering Orchards), (1889)

The Olive Trees, (1889)

Entrance of the Hospital, Saint-Remy, (1889)

L'Arlesienne: (Madame Ginoux), (1890)

The Round of the Prisoners, (1890)


  • Beaujean, Dieter. Vincent van Gogh: Life and Work, Könemann 1999, ISBN 3-8290-2938-1
  • Callow, Philip. Vincent Van Gogh: A Life, Ivan R. Dee, 1990, ISBN 1-56663-134-3
  • Erickson, Kathleen Powers. At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent van Gogh, 1998, ISBN 0-8028-4978-4
  • Gayford, Martin. The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles, Fig Tree, Penguin, 2006, ISBN 0-670-91497-5
  • Hammacher, A.M. Vincent van Gogh: Genius and Disaster, Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York, 1985, ISBN 0-8109-8067-3
  • van Heugten, Sjraar Van Gogh The Master Draughtsman, Thames and Hudson, 2005 ISBN-13: 978-0-500-23825-7 ISBN-10: 0-500-23825-1
  • Hulsker, Jan. Vincent and Theo van Gogh, a dual biography, Fuller Publications, Ann Arbor, 1990, ISBN 0-940537-05-2
  • Rewald, John. Post-Impressionism: From van Gogh to Gauguin, revised edition, Secker & Warburg 1978, ISBN 0-436-41151-2
  • Walther, Ingo F., and Metzger, Rainer. Van Gogh: the Complete Paintings, Benedikt Taschen 1997, ISBN 3-8228-8265-8
  • Wilkie, Ken. The Van Gogh Assignment, Paddington Press, 1978; republished: The Van Gogh File. A Journey of Discovery, Souvenir Press, 1990, ISBN 0-285-62965-4
  • Wilkie, Ken. In Search of Van Gogh, 1991, ISBN 1-55958-101-8 (not valid?)
  • Grossvogel, David I. "Behind the Van Gogh Forgeries: A Memoir by David I. Grossvogel" Authors Choice Press (March 2001), ISBN-10: 0595177174
† Tertiary sources, with little or no reference to sources


1. ^ Rewald, John. Post-Impressionism: From van Gogh to Gauguin, revised edition, Secker & Warburg 1978, ISBN 0-436-41151-2
2. ^ Vincent Van Gogh - Biography, Quotes & Paintings, retrieved June 14 2007.
3. ^ Lubin, Albert J. Stranger on the earth: A psychological biography of Vincent van Gogh, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1972. ISBN 0-03-091352-7. pages 82–84
4. ^ Erickson, page 9.
5. ^ Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh - Nuenen, c. 18 December 1883.
6. ^ Hackford Road. Retrieved on 2007-03-24.
7. ^ van Gogh, Vincent (1873-05-05). Letter from Vincent to Theo. Retrieved on 2007-03-24.
8. ^ Theo's wife later remarked that this was the happiest year of Vincent's life. Wilkie, pages 34-36
9. ^ Wilkie, pages 38 - 52
10. ^ Callow, page 54
11. ^ See the recollections gathered in Dordrecht by M. J. Brusse, Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, May 26 and June 2, 1914.
12. ^ "he would not eat meat, only a little morsel on Sundays, and then only after being urged by our landlady for a long time. Four potatoes with a suspicion of gravy and a mouthful of vegetables constituted his whole dinner"— from a letter to Frederik van Eeden, to help him with preparation for his article on Van Gogh in De Nieuwe Gids (issue 1 December, 1890), quoted in Van Gogh: A Self-Portrait; Letters Revealing His Life as a Painter, selected by W. H. Auden, New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, CT. 1961. See pages 37 – 39.
13. ^ Erickson page 23
14. ^ Letter 129, April 1879, and Letter 132. Van Gogh lodged in Wasmes, at 22 rue de Wilson, with Jean-Baptiste Denis, a breeder or grower ('cultivateur', in the French original) according to Letter 553b. In the recollections of his nephew Jean Richez, gathered by Wilkie (in the 1970s!), page 72-78, Denis and his wife Esther were running a bakery, and Richez admits that the only source of his knowledge is Aunt Esther.
15. ^ Wilkie page 75
16. ^ Wilkie, page 77
17. ^ Letter from mother to Theo, 7 August 1879 and Callow, work cited, page 72
18. ^ there are different views as to this period; Jan Hulsker in Vincent and Theo van Gogh, a dual biography, Fuller Publications, Ann Arbor, 1990. ISBN 0-940537-05-2 opts for a return to the Borinage and then back to Etten in this period; the forthcoming catalogue for the 2006 Budapest Van Gogh exhibition supports the line taken in this article
19. ^ Letter 158
20. ^ see Jan Hulsker's speech The Borinage Episode and the Misrepresentation of Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Symposium, 10-11 May 1990, referenced in Erickson, pages 67-68
21. ^ Letter 134, dated 20 August 1880 from Cuesmes; also Wilkie, page 79
22. ^ Vincent Van Gogh biography. (2007). Retrieved on 2007-03-23.
23. ^ Erickson, page 5.
24. ^ Letter 153 to Theo dated 3 November 1881
25. ^ Letter 161 to Theo 23 November 1881
26. ^ Letter 164 from Etten c.21 December 1881, describing the visit in more detail
27. ^ Letter 193 from Vincent to Theo, The Hague, 14 May 1882
28. ^ Gayford, work cited, pages 130 – 131
29. ^ Letter 166,
30. ^ Callow, page 116, citing the work of Hulsker
31. ^ Callow pages 123 - 124
32. ^ Callow page 117
33. ^ Callow, page 116, citing the research of Jan Hulsker; the two dead children were born in 1874 and 1879.
34. ^ Wilkie, page 176. Forceps were used in the birth. Baby Willem was 3.42 kg and 53 cm at birth, suggesting conception occurred late August or early September 1881 ... see Wilkie page 201. Vincent had visited The Hague briefly 23 – 26 August where he visited Anton Mauve and viewed the Panorama Mesdag
35. ^ Callow, page 132
36. ^ Letter 203, 30 May 1882 (postcard written in English)
37. ^ Letter 2068 or 9 June 1882
38. ^ Arnold, page 38
39. ^ Wilkie, page 183
40. ^ Wilkie, page 185
41. ^ Wilkie, page 201
42. ^ Johannes de Looyer, Karel van Engeland, Hendricus Dekkers, and Piet van Hoorn all as old men recalled being paid 5, 10 or 50 cents per nest, depending on the type of bird. See Wilkie, pages 25-26, and Theos' son's note
43. ^ Vincent's nephew noted some reminiscences of local residents in 1949, including the description of the speed of his drawing
44. ^ Wilkie, page 82
45. ^ the girl was Gordina de Groot, who died in 1927; she claimed the father was not Van Gogh, but a relative; see Wilkie page 26
46. ^ Callow, page 181
47. ^ Callow, page 184
48. ^ Hammacher, page 84
49. ^ Callow, page 253
50. ^ Vincent's doctor was Hubertus Amadeus Cavenaile; Wilkie, pages 143-146
51. ^ Arnold, page 77. The evidence for syphilis is thin, coming solely from interviews with the grandson of the doctor; see Tralbaut, M. E. Vincent van Gogh, New York, The Alpine Fine Arts Collection, 1981, pages 177-178, and Wilkie, pages 143-146
52. ^ van der Wolk, J. The Seven Sketchbooks of Vincent van Gogh: a facsimile edition, Harry Abrams Inc, New York, 1987, pages 104-105
53. ^ 70 of Van Gogh's abandoned paintings were bought by a junk dealer, who burnt some and sold others at very low prices.
54. ^ "Glossary term: Pointillism", National Gallery. Retrieved 13 September 2007.
55. ^ "Glossary term: Complimentary colours", National Gallery. Retrieved 13 September 2007.
56. ^ D. Druick & P. Zegers, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, Thames & Hudson, 2001, page 81; Gayford, work cited, page 50
57. ^ Letter 510, Letter 544a
58. ^ Alfred Nemeczek, Van Gogh in Arles, Prestel Verlag, 1999, ISBN 3-7913-2230-3, pages 59 – 61.
59. ^ Gayford, The Yellow House, page 16
60. ^ Callow, p 219
61. ^ Letter 534; Gayford, page 18
62. ^ Letter 537; Nemeczek, page 61
63. ^ Martin Gayford, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles, Fig Tree, Penguin, 2006. ISBN 0-670-91497-5. See page 61
64. ^ According to Doiteau & Leroy, the diagonal cut removed the lobe and probably a little more.
65. ^ Callow, page 246
66. ^ One of these four portraits sold at auction in May 2006 for more than $40 million.
67. ^ John Rewald, Post-Impressionism, revised edition: Secker & Warburg, London England. 1978, p. 346-347 and 348-350
68. ^ Letter 648
69. ^ Letter 629 30 April 1890
70. ^ Vincent van Gogh study guide. (2006). Retrieved on 2007-03-25.
71. ^ DIEUMO, J.B. (2006). Homage To Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). Studio-web. Retrieved on 2007-03-25.
72. ^ Blumer, Dietrich (2002)"The Illness of Vincent van Gogh" American Journal of Psychiatry
73. ^ Wolf, Paul (November 2001). "Creativity and chronic disease Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)". Western Journal of Medicine 175 (5): 348. Retrieved on 2006-10-07. 
74. ^ Ross King. The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism. New York: Waller & Company, 2006 ISBN 0-8027-1466-8. See page 61.
75. ^ William J. Cromie (2004-01-29). The brains behind writer's block. Harvard Gazette.
76. ^ Star dates Van Gogh canvas 8 March, 2001
77. ^ 'Kolmogorov scaling in impassioned van Gogh paintings' by J. L. Aragón, Gerardo G. Naumis, M. Bai, M. Torres, P.K. Maini; 28 June 2006

External links

Vincent van Gogh
General: The Artist | Chronology | Medical condition | Posthumous fame | Post-Impressionism | Theo van Gogh | Paul Gachet | Paul Gauguin | Van Gogh Museum | Cultural depictions
Groups and series of works: The Dcoration for the Yellow House | The Roulin Family | Display at Les XX, 1890 | Auvers size 30 canvases | Auvers Double-squares and Squares
Paintings: List of works | Self-Portraits | Sunflowers | The Potato Eaters | Bedroom in Arles | The Red Vineyard | The Night Caf | The Yellow House | The Starry Night | Irises | The Church at Auvers | Wheat Field with Crows | Cafe Terrace at Night | Portrait of Dr. Gachet | Thatched Cottages by a Hill

NAMEVan Gogh, Vincent
DATE OF BIRTH30 March, 1853
PLACE OF BIRTHGroot-Zundert, Netherlands
DATE OF DEATHJuly 29, 1890
PLACE OF DEATHAuvers-sur-Oise, France
Van Gogh or van Gogh may refer to:


  • Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), painter
  • Theo van Gogh (art dealer) (1857–1891), art dealer and brother of Vincent van Gogh

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  • 240 BC - 1st recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet.

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18th century - 19th century - 20th century
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Country Netherlands
Province North Brabant
Area (2006)
 - Municipality 120.75 km  (0 sq mi)
 - Land 120.
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"Je maintiendrai"   (French)
"Ik zal handhaven"   (Dutch)
"I shall stand fast"1

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18th century - 19th century - 20th century
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Commune of

Country  France
Arrondissement Pontoise
Intercommunality Communauté
de communes
de la Vallée de l'Oise

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Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
"La Marseillaise"

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Painting, meant literally, is the practice of applying color to a surface (support) such as paper, canvas, wood, glass, lacquer or concrete. However, when used in an artistic sense, the term "painting" means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition and
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Post-Impressionism is the term coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1914, to describe the development of European art since Monet (Impressionism). John Rewald, one of the first professional art historians to focus on the birth of early modern art, limited the
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The Potato Eaters (De Aardappeleters in Dutch) is a painting by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh that he painted in April 1885 while in Nuenen, Netherlands. It is housed in the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam.
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Sunflowers is a series of still life oil paintings that the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh painted. Among the Sunflowers paintings are three similar paintings with fifteen sunflowers in a vase, and two similar paintings with twelve sunflowers in a vase.
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The Starry Night is a painting by Dutch post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh. Since 1941 it has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
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Irises is a painting by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. It was one of his first works while he was at the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in the last year before his death in 1890.
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Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1st version)
Vincent van Gogh, 1890
Oil on canvas
67 × 56 cm, 23.4 × 22.0 inches
Private collection Portrait of Dr. Gachet
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March 30 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


  • 240 BC - 1st recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet.

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18th century - 19th century - 20th century
1820s  1830s  1840s  - 1850s -  1860s  1870s  1880s
1850 1851 1852 - 1853 - 1854 1855 1856

Subjects:     Archaeology - Architecture -
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July 29 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.


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18th century - 19th century - 20th century
1860s  1870s  1880s  - 1890s -  1900s  1910s  1920s
1887 1888 1889 - 1890 - 1891 1892 1893

Subjects:     Archaeology - Architecture -
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25 million - 28 million (with Flemings: - 34 million) (14,000,000 - 15,000,000 with full Dutch ancestry) (Red → Dutch-born) (Green → Reported ancestry)
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Post-Impressionism is the term coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1914, to describe the development of European art since Monet (Impressionism). John Rewald, one of the first professional art historians to focus on the birth of early modern art, limited the
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Impressionism was a 19th century art movement that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists, who began exhibiting their art publicly in the 1860s. The name of the movement is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work,
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Neo-Impressionism is a term coined by the French art critic Félix Fénéon in 1887[1] to characterise the late-19th century art movement led by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, who first exhibited their work in 1884 at the exhibition of the Société des Artistes
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Ville de Paris

City flag City coat of arms

Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur
(Latin: "Tossed by the waves, she does not sink")

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, as seen from the esplanade du Trocadéro.
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Commune of

The Roman arena in Arles


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Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
"La Marseillaise"

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Paul Gauguin

Birth name Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin
7 May 1848(1848--)
Paris, France
8 May 1903 (aged 56)
Atuona, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

painting, engraving
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Suicide (Latin sui caedere, to kill oneself) or Self-murder, is the act of intentionally terminating one's own life. Suicide occurs for a number of reasons such as depression, substance abuse, shame, avoiding pain, financial difficulties or other undesirable fates.
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Theo van Gogh (May 1 1857 – January 25 1891) was the younger brother of the painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and a successful art dealer. Beginning in 1880, Theo's unfailing financial support allowed his brother to devote himself entirely to painting.
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