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Vincent van Gogh's Biography

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Who was Vincent van Gogh?

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 in Groot-Zundert, Brabant, The Netherlands, exactly a year after his stillborn namesake.

Vincent van Gogh's father was a pastor at Zundert and three of his uncles were in the art trade. After a spell at the local school Vincent van Gogh went to boarding school in Zevenbergen and then to Hoegere Burgerschool in Tilburg.

Vincent van Gogh joined the Hague branch of Goupil and Cie as a junior clerk in July 1869. They published reproductions and original works of art.

Van Gogh worked for them in London and Paris before he was sacked in April 1876 after his interest in art dealing had started to wane.

He taught at a private school in Ramsgate and then preached in various suburbs of London. In December 1876 he returned to Holland and joined a booksellers. Van Gogh occupied himself by translating the Bible into four languages.

Vincent van Gogh began theological studies but in July 1878 he gave them up and trained as an evangelical missionary. Eventually he secured a temporary nomination at Wasmes but the level of his self-sacrifice shocked his bosses and van Gogh once more found himself sacked.

In 1879, Vincent van Gogh's interest in art seemed to be rekindled. He studied anatomy, and produced a number of drawings and sketches. He produced his first paintings in December 1881 whilst studying with his cousin Anton Mauve in The Hague.

Van Gogh met Clasina Maria Hoornik (Sien), a seamstress and charwoman who had turned to prostitution to help ends meet. They became close and he paid her to model for his pictures and derived satisfaction from saving a 'fallen woman'.

The Hague period proved a solid foundation for van Gogh's later work. Despite periods of ill health including venereal disease van Gogh applied himself wholeheartedly to art.

Disgruntled by Sien's resistance to 'salvation', van Gogh left The Hague in September 1883. He spent the next few years in his father's new parish at Neuen, and then his brother Theo, who had always been his favourite and a regular support through correspondence, enabled Vincent to go to Paris to study under Cormon.

There, van Gogh met Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Seurat. He then went to Arles and in 1888 painted a large number of works including Sunflowers, The Bridge, and The Chair and the Pipe.

Gauguin came to stay on 23 October 1888. The two seem to clash incessantly and had a violent argument on 23 December 1888. Gauguin decided to spend the night at an hotel when he came back in the morning, he found the police. Van Gogh had severed part of his own ear and presented it to a prostitute, Rachel, at the local brothel and returned to bed. Vincent van Gogh had almost died. Instead he was placed in an asylum at St Remy.

Then in 1890 he went to live at Auvers-sur-Oise under the supervision of Dr Paul Gachet. Finally with an article by A Aurier, Van Gogh's work got some recognition, but on 27 July 1890 van Gogh shot himself.

Never properly appreciated in his own lifetime, a century after his death any one of van Gogh's 800 paintings and 700 drawings would each command a fortune at auction.

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