Vincent Van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890)
Sunflower, starry nights, a severed ear and suicide: a compelling mixture to anyone looking for an example of tragic genius. And if Vincent Van Gogh's passions and difficulties are not clear enough from his canvases, we may also read the letters he wrote to his art dealer brother, Theo.
Van Gogh's first job was as an art dealer's assistant in The Hague. He taught himself to draw earlier but didn't paint until his late twenties, after failing every attempt to become a preacher, thanks to the erratic behavior that blighted all his relationships.
For two years 'the Dutchman' lived in Paris with Theo, who was helpful in introducing him to many artists, including the Impressionists. Their combined influence transformed Van Gogh's previously sombre palette to something 'very much alive, very strong in colour...'
Painting at a fantastic rate, Van Gogh achieved his greatest works during the last two years of his life. From the blissful summer warmth of Provence in 1888, he declared: 'I am not conscious of myself any more... the picture comes to me as in a dream...'
But a violent outburst following Gauguin's arrival in Arles led to a year's stay for Van Gogh in Saint-Remy asylum. Later, Theo moved his brother north again, to Dr. Gachet's care in Auvers-sur-Oise. Van Gogh died there in July 1890, from a self inflicted gun wound. Together with masses of yellow flowers around his deathbed in a tiny room in the inn. Theo lovingly arranged no fewer than seventy-six paintings. Van Gogh's creative energy had produced them all within his final seventy days.