Vincent van Gogh: Later Years
A Brief Understanding of Van Gogh's Later Years.
In 1881, at the age of 27, Vincent moved back in with his parents after completing nine months of further education in Brussels. At home Vincent set to work on teaching himself how to draw. He tested various different techniques and styles along with experimenting with different subject matters. Other areas he worked on mastering were perspective, shading, and anatomy. Many of his earliest pieces were of peasant life, which could be attributed to his work with the miners of Borinage. Vincent soon became passionate about becoming an acclaimed drawer of figures, and continued to practice his newly developed skills. By the end of 1881, Vincent had moved from his parent's house and was acquiring lessons from Anton Mauve, his cousin by way of marriage. Vincent also began a relationship with Sien Hoomik, a pregnant prostitute whom had had one child out of wedlock already. Vincent was deeply shunned by Mauve for this relationship thus causing the two to fall out of friendship. However, Vincent continued to master the skills of drawing and used Hoomik as a model whenever possible.
Vincent soon became irritable and made the choice to break off his relationship with Hoomik and move once again to follow artists like Van Rappard and Mauve to Drenthe. Vincent soon found a lack of inspiration and models and moved back in with his parents to continue practice. Here Vincent was first introduced to the paintings of Jean-Franqois Millet, a French artist, who had become quite famous across Europe for his renditions of peasant life. Van Gogh began painting and he forcibly modeled his style after Millet. By the age of 29, Vincent had moved from his parents' house and worked in a make-shift studio located in a room he rented from a Catholic church.
From the beginning of Van Gogh's artistic career he had the ambition to draw and paint figures, in 1884 he began working on mastering weathered hands, heads and other anatomical features of peasants. He was planning on creating a multiple figure piece that would make his name respected in the artistic community. The piece he created was entitled The Potato Eaters and was completed in 1885. This piece proved to be success, but not in his lifetime.
After the personal failure of The Potato Eaters, Vincent decided he needed some professional training in art techniques. He enrolled later that year in an academy in Antwerp where he discovered the art of Peter Paul Rubens, and various Japanese artists. Both of these factors would greatly affect Van Gogh's style in art. By early 1886, he had moved to Paris to live with his brother Theo. Here Vincent was immersed in a centrifuge of modern art from the impressionist and post impressionists. Van Gogh quickly dropped the dark colors he had used to create The Potato Eaters after discovering the palette to be horrendously out of date. He adopted the brighter more vibrant colors with ease and began experimenting with the techniques he saw in the art of the impressionist and post impressionists. He soon began to research the styles found in the Japanese artwork he had discovered a year earlier.
While in Paris, Vincent was acquainted with various other artists including: Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, and Emile Bernard. Vincent befriended Paul Gauguin and moved to Arles in 1888 hoping that his new friends would join him to create a school of art. Vincent was confident in his new and highly personal style and felt that he could attribute it to modern art with his outlandish new color combinations.
Later Paul Gauguin did join Van Gogh in Arles. Vincent began painting sunflowers to decorate Gauguin's bedroom. These sunflowers would later become one of Vincent's signature pieces. Although something much greater was brewing in Vincent's head, that he couldn't control.
Towards the end of 1888, the first signs of Van Gogh's mental illness began to take hold. He suffered from various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions. One such episode entailed Vincent pursuing Gauguin with a knife and threatening him intensely. Later that day, Vincent returned to their house and mutilated his ear, then offered it to a prostitute as a gift. Vincent was temporarily hospitalized and released to find Gauguin swiftly leaving Arles and his dream of an artistic community shattered. For more details on this incident, please see the page on Van Gogh's Ear.
As the year of 1888 came to an end, Vincent traveled to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where he committed himself to an asylum. Here his paintings became a torrent of activity. Although he could not draw and paint for long periods of time without suffering from an attack, he managed to create The Starry Night which resides as his most popular work and one of the most influence pieces in history. The swirling lines of the sky are a possible representation of his mental state. This same shaken style is visible in all of his work during his time in the asylum.
Vincent left Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in 1890 and began contacting his brother Theo. van Gogh continued working and created a number of pieces; nearly one painting day. Vincent viewed his life as horribly wasted, personally failed and impossible. On July 27, 1890 Van Gogh attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He survived, but died two days later from the wound. For more details on the end of Vincent van Gogh's life, please see the page on Van Gogh's death
Theo, who had collected the majority of Vincent's work from Paris, died only six months later. His widow took the collection to Holland and dedicated herself to getting the now deceased Vincent the recognition he deserved. She published his work and Vincent became famous nearly instantly. His reputation has been growing since.
The story of Vincent van Gogh's tragic life, filled with mental evils and artistic triumphs , lingers almost becoming that of legend. His work is still astounding millions around the world daily, and though he sold only one painting in his life, his influence on the outcome of art has been amazing and overwhelming. His paintings have reached new records when sold for hundreds of millions of dollars, and his persona has sparked number one hit songs. Vincent van Gogh has altered mankind forever... and he believed his life was a terrible failure!
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