'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

28 January 2012

Vincent Van Gogh

1853 - 1890
Van Gogh produced some 860 oil paintings and 1300 or so drawings and watercolours. He also left some 600 letters mostly written to his beloved and devoted brother, Theo. He failed miserably in love, friendship, career, and in the three relationships to which he was most devoted; his Calvinist minister father, his church, and his god. He spoke Dutch, French, German and English, read extensively and failing as a preacher he devoted himself to painting the worker and nature.
In 1880, at the age of 26, he suffered his first nervous breakdown. He wrote to his brother saying 
  "In spite of everything, I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing."
His early work depicts humble subjects, his middle years are portraits, room settings, and "still lifes" of flowers and in his last years, after admitting himself into sanatorium he created his finest work. Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime.
1853 Vincent van Gogh is born on March 30 in Groot-Zundert, Holland to Reverend Theodorus Van Gogh and Anna Cornelia née Carbentus
1857 His brother Theo is born on May 1.
1864 Vincent starts school and begins to draw.
1866 Studies art at Trilburg School in The Netherlands
1869 After finishing his schooling, Vincent is apprenticed to the Paris great art dealers Goupil & Cie, in the Hague and visits the museums.
1872 Vincent spends much time with his brother, Theo. They begin a lifelong correspondence.
1873 Vincent is transferred to the London branch of Goupil & Cie and falls in love with Eugenie the daughter of the Mrs. Ursula Loyer, who runs the boarding house where he is staying. He is rejected and depression sets in.
1874 He is transferred to the Paris branch. By the end of the year, he returns to London.
1875 His job deteriorates, but his bible studies become obsessive.
1876 He journeys to Ramsgate, England where he takes a post at a small boarding school. Later he takes a new job as a teacher and curate with a Methodist minister. His religious fervour increases, but his physical and mental state deteriorate.
1877 Vincent leaves England and takes a job in a bookshop, behaves abrasively, leaves and pursues religious studies in Amsterdam.
1878 Formal religious studies end, but, with a religious vocation, Vincent travels to the Borinage, and reads from the bible to the miners, lives in poverty and tends to the sick.
1879 His behaviour is extreme. Vincent is soon relieved of his position and suffers depression at his failure. He works with miners in Cuesmes. His religious devotion begins to wane and his interest in painting is renewed. Theo begins to financially support him from now until his death. He undertakes some studies of anatomy and perspective at the Academy in Brussels.
1881 He visits Theo and has his advances rejected by his cousin Cornelia Adriana Vos-Stricker. He spends time with the painter, Anton Mauve who introduces Vincent to watercolours. Vincent's mental state again deteriorates and his relationship with his father also begins to crumble.
1882 Vincent meets Clasina Maria Hoornik and they move in together. A prostitute with a five year old daughter and is pregnant with another child. He is hospitalised for three weeks for gonorrhoea. Then he begins to experiment with oils and spends much time painting nature as well as using the woman and her newborn child as models.
1883 Vincent ends his relationship and devotes himself exclusively to his work. He travels to Drente in northern Holland and paints the bleak landscape as well as the peasant workers. Later in the year, Vincent moves to Nuenen to stay with his parents.
1884 Begins a relationship with a neighbour's daughter, Margot Begemann. Both families are opposed to their plan to marry and, in despair, Margot attempts to poison herself. He strikes up a friendship with Anton C. Kerssemakers and spends much time discussing art and visiting museums.
1885 After the death of his father in March, Vincent paints his first great work, The Potato Eaters . He begins to use a greater variety of colours and becomes interested in Japanese woodcuts.
1886 Attempts more formal training in art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but he rejects many of the principles he's taught and withdraws. Moves to Paris and lives with Theo. Submits some of his works to the Antwerp Academy and is put in a beginner's class then leaves. A turning point when he begins studies with Cormon where he meets John Russell, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Emile Bernard. Theo introduces him to the works of the Impressionists: Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas and Georges Seurat. He becomes friends with painter, Paul Gauguin, He experiments with Japonaiseries and pointillism.
1888 Leaves Paris in February and moves to Arles. The bad, winter weather prevents Vincent from working, but come spring he begins painting the flowering Provence landscapes. He moves into the "Yellow House", and hopes to establish as an artists' community. 
He paints some of his best work. Gauguin arrives in October and moves in. An extremely productive time for Vincent and Gauguin, though turbulent. Their relationship is finally destroyed on December 23 when Vincent is supposed to have attacked Gauguin with a razor. Vincent loses all reason and cuts off his left earlobe. He then wraps it in newspaper and presents it to a prostitute at the local brothel he frequented. He is then hospitalised and shortly afterward Theo arrives and he leaves hospital on January 7. At times he is calm and coherent; at others he suffers hallucinations and delusions. He enters the Saint Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. His series of twisted olive groves and cypresses are painted from the asylum, but he tries to poison himself by swallowing his paints. He confines himself indoors and begins to do a series paintings based on the works of other artists. As his mental state deteriorates his work begins to receive recognition in the art community. He is invited to exhibit six of his works by Octave Maus, secretary of the Belgian artist group, Les XX. He again tries to poison himself.
1890 His works gain more recognition. On January 31 Theo's wife, Jo, gives birth to a son who they name Vincent Willhem.(photos below) He is put under the care of Dr. Paul Gachet. He arrives in Paris looking fit and well. In May he moves to Auvers-sur-Oise, just north of Paris and begins to paint with incredible energy, producing more than 80 paintings in his last two months. Dr. Gachet feels that Vincent has made a complete recovery, and Vincent spends a great deal of time with Theo, his wife Jo and their new son. Theo experiences financial difficulties and his new son is ill. Vincent visits Theo on July 6 and is devastated, his mental state plummets. On July 27 Vincent goes for a walk and shoots himself in the chest with a pistol, but staggers home. He is eventually found, but the bullet cannot be removed. He spends his last hours sitting up in bed and smoking a pipe, with Theo at his side. Near the end, Theo climbs into bed with Vincent and cradles his head in his arms. Vincent says: "I wish I could pass away like this." Vincent dies early the next morning on July 29. The funeral takes place shortly thereafter and his coffin is covered with dozens of sunflowers, which he loved so much.
1891 After Vincent's death Theo fell into a deep depression and died a mere six months after that of his brother on the 25th January at age 33. His doctor noted that 'Theo suffered from overstrain and sorrow: he had a life full of emotional stress"
1914 Theo's body is exhumed and he is buried in a grave next to Vincent in Auvers-sur-Oise.
Vincent Willem inherited the vast bulk of the paintings of his uncle and turned them over in the 1960's to be housed in a new museum built by the Netherlands Government .
Vincent and Me
Many years ago I visited Arles the town that saw some great works by Van Gough, but one of the enduring memories was a trip to the Van Gough Museum in Amsterdam which houses the largest collection of paintings and memorabilia of this profound artist. Arranged in order of composition the paintings read like a revealing autobiography. As you walk past you can see the moods and twisted disintegration of a mind of genius. No art experience has affected me so.

The extraordinarily moving scene from a 
Doctor Who episode.

Vincent van Gogh visits the Museum (Doctor Who... by PuertoLibre
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