Vincent van Gogh’s oil painting “The Starry Night” is one of the masterpieces that often has people referring to him as the “greatest Dutch artist of all time”, and he is one of the most distinguished artists ever to exist. However, his reputation is credited not only to his creative genius but also to the personal misfortunes he endured throughout his life.
Born on 30th March 1853 to an upper-middle class religious family, Van Gogh had a brief artistic career and never got his deserved fame during his lifetime. In today’s article, we will discuss five interesting facts about the Dutch master that you might not have known. So, if you are a Van Gogh fan, read on!
Began Painting At the Age of 27
It can be hard to believe such a thing, but it is worth knowing that Vincent Van Gogh started creating paintings only when he was 27. Before that, Van Gogh tried his hands at multiple other careers, including becoming an art dealer, teacher, and preacher.
Van Gogh obviously found little success in these jobs and was never fulfilled, so at the age of 27, he suddenly left everything and focused on drawing and painting. And there is no doubt once he started, there was nothing that could stop him.
When the artist first started creating paintings, Van Gogh used a dull palette of colors compared to his later work and portrayed some of the harsh realities of life. Financial hardships and poverty were common themes that one could find in the earlier works of Van Gogh.
The colors and themes of his artworks would be so depressing that viewers would often criticise Van Gogh for such use of color and subjects. Much later in his artistic career, he began using vivid color, for which Van Gogh is well-known today.
Van Gogh Was Commercially Unsuccessful
During his 10-year-long career as an artist, Vincent Van Gogh created almost 2100 amazing artworks, including 900 oil paintings, which equates to about a new artwork every 36 hours. But, it is sad to say that after all of such hardship, Van Gogh was never commercially successful.
The artist sold just one artwork during his entire lifetime – isn’t that sad? “The Red Vineyards Near Arles” is the only artwork that the artist sold. The painting went for around 400 francs, just seven months before his death.
Despite his privileged upbringing, Van Gogh’s adult life was full of poverty. His brother Theo often gave him money, which Van Gogh used to hire models and purchase painting materials. As a result, the Dutch artist survived on bread, coffee, and tobacco. At one point in his life, Van Gogh just had six hot meals to eat in a period of around four months. Lack of proper diet, excessive drinking, and smoking pipes worsened his health.
The irony is that, after living a dying death of a poor man, Van Gogh created a painting titled “Portrait of Dr. Gachet”, a portrait of his physician, which was considered one the most expensive portraits ever. In the year 1990, a century after the artist’s death, the painting was sold for $82.5 million. Famous Van Gogh drawings have become some of the most recognizable and valuable pieces in art history.
He Cut His Own Ear Lobe
One of the most known parts of Van Gogh’s life is that he cut his ear – in reality, it was only a part of his ear lobe. However, the reason behind the artist’s violent step has never been confirmed, and there have been multiple stories surrounding the incident.
The popular version of the narrative involves Van Gogh and his close friend Paul Gauguin. If the story is to be believed, it is said that Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were having a heated argument. Because of his mental illness at that time, he picked a razor and moved to attack Paul – Van Gogh ended up mutilating his own ear lobe.
Later, Van Gogh wrapped the sliced earlobe in a newspaper that he offered to a woman at a brothel, where Van Gogh and Gauguin went quite often. Finally, the artist paid homage to the wound and the incident in his painting titled “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.”
Contrary to the story, some historians also claim that Gauguin, an expert fencer, cut the earlobe of Van Gogh in a feat of rage during their fight. However, the two artists, who were also great friends, decided to hide the truth to escape any further issues.
A masterpiece Created in an Asylum
“The Starry Night” is without a doubt one of the most famous Van Gogh drawings, which the artist made while he was in an asylum. After the ear-cutting incident, Van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself to the Saint-Remy-de-Provence insane asylum.
While in the asylum, Van Gogh continued to paint and created one of the most famous paintings in art history, “The Starry Night”. The painting depicts the night view Van Gogh saw from the barred window of his room in the asylum.
Today, the painting is largely famous worldwide, but Van Gogh never seemed happy with the piece. He even believed that the paintings he created in the asylum, including “The Starry Night”, were among his failed paintings.
Expressed Himself in Writing
Besides expressing himself and his emotions in painting, Vincent Van Gogh is also known for expressing himself in writing. It is believed that he wrote over 800 letters, most of which were to his brother and closest friend Theo Van Gogh.
His friends Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin exchanged some letters with Van Gogh, who were also very close. His letters are a rich source of information about his life and art.
In his letters, a private man, Van Gogh, expressed his thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, many of Van Gogh’s letters were undated, yet historians were able to arrange the letters in chronological order aiding in creating a complete story of Van Gogh’s life.
The Bottom Line
Vincent Van Gogh was an iconic painter. The artist left behind an incredible legacy of artwork that has inspired many people, even today. His life was filled with tragedy and hardships, but he created beautiful art pieces despite all that.