Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter and one of the predecessors of Expressionism. He is considered one of the most important painters at the beginning of the 20th century, but he received no recognition in his own lifetime. In the 1880s, he painted many landscapes and self-portraits with short, parallel brushstrokes and strong colors. Among his most famous paintings are "Sunflowers" (1888) and "Man with a severed ear" (1889). The latter was carried out after he had cut off his own ear. He ended up in a mental hospital and took his own life.
Vincent van Gogh was the son of Theodorus van Gogh, a Protestant priest, and Cornelia van Gogh. Vincent was the eldest of six children and worked as a traveling commissioner for Goupil's art trade in Paris, but returned home to the Netherlands in 1874 after an unhappy love affair. In 1876 he went to London again, became religiously interested and studied theology to become a missionary in the Netherlands. There he traveled around as a lay preacher in the mining districts of Belgium and occasionally made drawings of the poor workers. He was deposed as a lay preacher and decided in 1880 to sacrifice himself for painting, encouraged and helped by his brother Theo.
In the years up to 1886, he painted in the Netherlands and Belgium and received strong impulses from the painters Jean-François Millet, George Hendrik Breitner, Jozef Israëls and Anton Mauve. His circle of motifs were working people and groups in a simple environment: "Weavers" (1884) and "Potetspiserne" (1885). The colors were dark and brownish, and he himself called the period "black".
In 1886 he came to Paris and worked in Fernand Cormon's studio until 1888. Soon after his arrival in Paris he met Paul Gauguin, whom he admired. He also met most of the Impressionists. Under the influence of Impressionism, he switched to bright, strong colors. The circle of subjects also changed, and he now mostly painted landscapes and portraits. He went to Arles in the south of France in 1888, where he dreamed of setting up a studio with his friend Gauguin as manager.
Van Gogh now entered a new painterly phase and continued to work on portraits such as "Roulin the Postman" and the magnificent, exotically inspired "Zouave" (both 1888). The brushstroke, which had already been broad, marked and temperamental in the Paris era, now became even more characteristic and personal.
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