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Vincent Van Gogh

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Van Gogh, Vincent (văn gō, Dutch vinsent' vÐ"¤n khÐ"Ò'kh) [key], 1853Ð'-90, postimpressionist painter, b. the Netherlands. Van Gogh's works are perhaps better known generally than those of any other painter. His brief, turbulent, and tragic life is thought to epitomize the mad genius legend.

During his lifetime, Van Gogh's work was represented in two very small exhibitions and two larger ones. Only one of Van Gogh's paintings was sold while he lived. The great majority of the works by which he is remembered were produced in 29 months of frenzied activity and intermittent bouts with epileptoid seizures and profound despair that finally ended in suicide. In his grim struggle Vincent had one constant ally and support, his younger brother ThÐ"©o, to whom he wrote revealing and extraordinarily beautiful letters detailing his conflicts and aspirations. As a youth Van Gogh worked for a picture dealer, antagonizing customers until he was dismissed. Compulsively humanitarian, he tried to preach to oppressed mining families and was jeered at. His difficult, contradictory personality was rejected by the women he fell in love with, and his few friendships usually ended in bitter arguments.

Ten years before his death Van Gogh decided to be a painter, fully conscious of the sacrifices this decision would require of him. His early work, the Dutch period of 1880Ð'-85, consists of dark greenish-brown, heavily painted studies of peasants and miners, e.g., The Potato Eaters (1885; Van Gogh Mus., Amsterdam). He copied the work of Millet, whose idealization of the rural poor he admired. In 1886 he joined ThÐ"©o in Paris, where he met the foremost French painters of the postimpressionist period. The kindly Pissarro convinced him to adopt a colorful palette and thereby made a tremendously significant contribution to Van Gogh's art. His painting PÐ"Ёre Tanguy (1887; Niarchos Coll., Paris) was the first complete and successful work in his new colors. Impressed by the theories of Seurat and Signac, Van Gogh briefly adopted a pointillist style.

In 1888, in ill health and longing for release from Paris and what he felt was his imposition upon ThÐ"©o's life, he took a house at Arles. At Arles he was joined by Gauguin for a brief period fraught with tension, during which he mutilated his left ear in the course of his first attack

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