Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) was a post-Impressionist painter of Dutch origin whose work—notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color—had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. After years of misunderstood genius, he achieved widespread critical success late in his career, culminating in the celebrated sale of one of his paintings to the government of France for the then-record sum of 400,000 francs.
In just over a decade, van Gogh produced more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self-portraits, landscapes, still lives, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.
Van Gogh spent his early adult years working for a firm of art dealers. After a brief spell as a teacher, he became a missionary worker in a very poor mining region. He did not embark upon a career as an artist until 1880. Initially, Van Gogh worked only with somber colors, until he encountered Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism in Paris. He incorporated their brighter colors and style of painting into a uniquely recognizable style, which was fully developed during the time he spent at Arles, France.
. Most of his best-known works were produced in the final two years of his life, during which time he cut off part of his left ear following a breakdown in his friendship with Paul Gauguin. After this, he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide.
The central figure in Van Gogh’s life was his brother Theo, who continually and selflessly provided financial support. Their lifelong friendship is documented in numerous letters they exchanged from August 1872 onwards. Van Gogh is a pioneer of what came to be known as Expressionism. He had an enormous influence on 20th-century art, especially on the Fauves and German Expressionists.