Van Gogh: Autorretrato, 1889.
Van Gogh, Selfportrait, 1889,
oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm
Paris, Musée d´Orsay.

     Van Gogh thought that painting was a way to change society and a vehicle for personal salvation. He was a difficult person in his social relations and his economical life: a looser in love matters. His work was also unsuccessful and he would have had troubles to survive if he would have not been helped by his brother Théo. Our artist confronted his life of frustration with a personal point of view. The levels he got took him to kill himself: in one of his latter letters he express in wich way painting was taking him to destruction. He opened new ways to later expressionism.
     He was the son of a Protestant pastor and worked for Goupil auctions until he left it because of his wish of helping his fellowmen. Then he became a member of secular apostleship in a poor region in Holland. He tried to enter a protestant Seminar, but he was not admited because of his unstable temper. There is a black legend about him: we always hear of Van Gogh as "the redhaired fool who cut himself an ear". As often happens in History we have to search the causes that took him to make the famous amputation that make him beeing so well-known. Maybe so he would not be seen as the epileptic lunatic who shoot himself in a mental hospital. That is why we will approach to his vital phases.
  • His life, his art:
         It was 1879 when he began to paint in a passionately way. He composed several albums copying from natural. He also got impressed by Dutch barroque , specially by Rembrandt because of his chromatism. Van Gogh reflected subjects about popular classes. His conceptual point of view was marked by french literature: he was fascinated by E.Zola. During this phase he exposes with clear realism the indigent people's daily life: he beholds with dignity a situation of social neglect. His tones are now dark; the edge of his figures weakly illuminated, mixed with lights and shadows.
    His new departure can be found in french realistic painters: Courbet, Daumier, Millet...
    In 1885 he lived in Amberes and knew Rubens and Frank Hals' paintings.

         In 1886 visited Paris attracted by Impressionism so well expounded by his brother Théo. Discovering Impressionism was a hard shock for our artist since he realized that his painting has no validity. He felt himself marginalized and out of fashion. Knowledge of Impressionism was a encouragement for changing:

    • He left pictorical subjects prefering landscape and portrait.

    • He made his palette clearer, using a light selection of colors. He usually works with pure ones in short touchs of brush that make us remember Pointillism.

         He registers himself on Cormont workshop, where he met E.Bernard and T.Lautrec, Gauguin...

         In 1888 he travelled to Arlés. He came there advised by Lautrec, searching peace. In Arlés he found a quiet and balanced spring that changed this year on Christmas when he met Gauguin. In Arlés he found a little guest house close to the station's café: he hired the famous Yellow House, where he tried to set his friends' shelter. These years he paints his best-known masterworks.

  • The crisis:

         Gauguin was invited to Van Gogh's home in order to spend 88's Christmas. Troubles amd discords began to raise between them. Gauguin joked at Van Gogh's ingenuity and attacked his way of painting asserting that true pictorical subjects are those finished in a workshop and not in the open air. In December 23th the riot boomed. Van Gogh, tired of Gauguin's impertinence tries to attack him with a shaving paper. Nevertheless, his collected bitterness made him cut his own ear. It was the first sign of his disease.
          In May 1889 Van Gogh was commited in a mental hospital in Saint Rémy.. There, he stood a year mixing periods of hallucinations with times of ease. He never left painting: the works from these years show his desperations and furies. Wheat fields and cypresses often appear in the pictures of this age. Dark blazes and nervous and anxious touchs of brush let him express his inner stress. Nature he express does tremble and show rough unevenness. We see sad and tragic visions that deform reality. He also copied works by classic masters from black and white engravings. His seclusion let him finish many of his most important works s.
         Van Gogh leaves the mental hospital and sets in Auvers. There was welcome by Dr. Gadchet, a friend of his brother Théo. In Auvers-sur-Oise Van Gogh spent his last months: weigh down by loneliness, he shot himself on July, 27th. 1890. He died two days later.

  • Outstanding works by Van Gogh:

    Van Gogh: Los comedores de patatas, 1885.  Van Gogh, Eaters of Potatoes, 1885, oil on canvas, 81´5 x 114´5 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Van Gogh Foundation.
    Van Gogh: Retrato de Père Tanguy, 1887-1888.  Van Gogh, Portrait of Père Tanguy, 1887-1888, oil on canvas, 65 x 51 cm, Colección Stavros S. Niarchos.
    With comment.
    Van Gogh: L´Arlesienne: madame Ginoux con libros, 1888.  Van Gogh, L´Arlesienne: Madame Ginoux with Books, 1888, oil on canvas, 91´4 x 73´7 cm, Nueva York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
    With comment.
    Van Gogh: El café nocturno de la Place Lamartine de Arlés, 1888.  Van Gogh, Night Café at Place Lamartine in Arlés, 1888, oil on canvas, 70 x 89 cm, New Haven (CT), Yale University, Art Gallery.
    With comment.
    Van Gogh: Terraza del café de la Place du Forum en Arlés por la noche, 1888.  Van Gogh, Tables from Place du Forum Café in Arlés at Night, 1888, oil on canvas, 81 x 65´5 cm, Otterlo, Rijskmuseum Kröller-Müller.
    With comment.
    Van Gogh: Doce girasoles en un jarrón, 1888.  Van Gogh, Twelve Sunflowers in a Jug, 1888, oil on canvas, 91 x 72 cm, Münich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Neue Pinakothek.
    With comment.
    Van Gogh: El puente Langlois en Arlés con lavanderas, 1888.  Van Gogh, Bridge of Langlois in Arlés with Washing Girls, 1888, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm, Otterlo, Rijskmuseum Kröller-Müller.
    With comment.
    Van Gogh: La noche estrellada, 1889.  Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 73´7 x 92´1 cm, New York, The Museum of Modern Art.
    With comment.
    Van Gogh: La habitación de Vincent en Arlés, 1889.  Van Gogh, Vincent Room in Arlés, 1889, oil on canvas, 56´5 x 74 cm, Paris, Musée d´Orsay.
    Van Gogh: La catedral de Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890.  Van Gogh, Cathedral of Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890, oil on canvas, 94 x 74 cm, Paris, Musée d´Orsay.
    Ampliar.  Van Gogh, Portrait of Dr. Gachet with Branch of Tree, 1890, oil on canvas, 68 x 57 cm, Paris, Musée d´Orsay.


    Written by:
    Beatriz Aragonés Escobar.
    Licenciada in History of Art

  • Visit our sponsors: