Vincent was born in the Netherlands to a father who was a minister and a mother who came from money. He had five siblings but lost touch over the years with all but one brother. His father didn’t make much money as a minister but the church supplied them with a home, cook, gardener, and a horse and carriage. This along with his mother’s money made for a pretty good lifestyle.
What was difficult for Vincent and his siblings is that it was a strict household. Both his mom and dad were very religious and education was a serious issue. Vincent spent two years being home schooled then he went to a regular school for four years and then was sent to a boarding school when he was 11. He hated it and constantly lobbied his parents to allow him to come home but they refused.
Vincent loved to draw at an early age but lost some of his passion when he was sent away to attend school. Against his parent’s orders, he left school when he was 16 and went home. He didn’t have any skills or interests for that matter beyond art so his uncle got him an internship with a popular art dealer while he attended art school.
After four years in school he finished his training and at the age of 20 took a job in London working at an art museum. He was enjoying living on his own in a nice apartment. Vincent fell in love for the first time with the landlady’s daughter and when he told her she shot him down because she was already engaged to someone else. It was during this time where mental illness started manifesting itself and he became depressed and withdrawn which negatively impacted his work to where he was eventually fired.
Vincent threw himself into religion and eventually became an assistant to a Methodist minister. Not enjoying the work he returned home when he was 23 and took a job at a bookstore which he hated except for the opportunity to draw. He also spent time translating passages from the Bible into English, French and German. According to what few friends he had, he became a religious fanatic for a while.
He decided to become a pastor but failed an entrance exam to get into the University of Amsterdam. Instead he decided to do missionary work and was given a congregation but it didn’t last long and he went home again. While at home his mental condition got worse to a point where his parents were considering sending him to an insane asylum.
Knowing what his parents were going to do, he took off for Brussels. His brother Theo always loved Vincent’s drawings and talked him into going full speed ahead in trying to become an artist; so at the age of 27 he took it on as a career but couldn’t keep himself afloat financially (although Theo pitched in), so he once again went home to live with his parents.
Then he had a bad taste of love again. He had a cousin who lost her husband and she had an eight year old son. She was visiting his mom and Vincent fell in love with her and when he told her he loved her she firmly said she wasn’t interested. When she returned home he sent her a love letter and asked to see her but she declined. Her father got involved in the situation and wrote Vincent a letter saying that he was penniless and couldn’t support his daughter which was a point he couldn’t argue.
He became troubled again and stopped leaving the house which caused a lot of fights with his parents because there was never a good excuse to not attend church. He got tired of their hounding him so he left for The Hague which was considered the place to be in the Netherlands (kind of like NYC). He caught a venereal disease and was in the hospital for three weeks. When he got out, his brother gave him a little money to live on and continue pursuing his art. This is when he began painting with oil on canvas and realized he had natural talent.
Not having a lot of money he moved in with a prostitute by the name of Sien and her two children. Word got to his parents about his living situation and they demanded he move out which he eventually did. Vincent found out later that Sien had killed herself.
At the age of 31, he moved back in with his parents. There was a woman next door who fell in love with Vincent but he wasn’t that interested and when he broke up with her she tried to kill herself with strychnine but Vincent got her to the hospital in time and she lived. His father died of a heart attack the next year.
By this point Vincent had painted hundreds of different paintings. Theo showed one of them to an art dealer in Paris and he loved it and wanted to know if Vincent had enough quality paintings for an art show. His first big hit was the painting: Potato Eaters but the problem was that a lot of Vincent’s works were dark and the Impressionist Period was in high gear with its brilliant colors.
He was also able to get an art exhibit in The Hague but ran into problems. One of the young girls who modeled for him became pregnant and Vincent was accused. He ended up not getting charged but he took a bit of a public relations hit.
As his career was taking off at the age of 33, he became worse both mentally and physically; he was barely eating and began losing his teeth. If it weren’t for his brother selling Vincent’s artworks, his name would’ve never of gotten out. Theo knew Vincent was a time bomb and that his mom wanted to have him committed to a mental hospital but Vincent wouldn’t budge and instead stayed in his small studio and kept painting.
How he cut part of his ear off is still a mystery but what isn’t a mystery is that he bandaged his head and dropped the ear off at a brothel for some strange reason. He went outside and passed out and a policeman got him to the hospital. He was out of it and didn’t give anyone an explanation as to what happened. Around this time period Vincent was hearing voices and his mental state was getting worse.
He began having delusions and hallucinations and his neighbors thought he had gone mad and told the police to remove him from their neighborhood. He voluntarily went to a mental hospital. On a funny note, Vincent gave his doctor a painting but the doctor didn’t like it and gave it away. That painting sold for $50 million dollars in 2016.
In 1890 and at the age of 37, Vincent shot himself in the chest but it didn’t immediately kill him. The doctors couldn’t take the bullet out so they had to wait it out. He laid in bed smoking cigarettes while his brother tended to him. It took 30 hours before he passed away. He had no wife or known children when he died.
Like many great artists, it wasn’t until he died that his paintings skyrocketed in price. Like I said in the beginning, I’m not a big fan of art but Van Gogh has about 20 paintings that I think are as great as anything I’ve ever seen. By the way I checked and these 20 paintings are worth a combined $800 million dollars.