Vincent van Gogh
For they could not love you but still your love was true,
And when no hope was left in sight on that starry starry night,
You took your life as lovers often do;
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.
—Don McLean, "Vincent"
Vincent Willem van Gogh was a famous post-impressionist artist, famous for his hard life, insanity and vividly colored paintings.
His last name is pronounced the Dutch way: "van" rhymes with "one", and "Gogh" is a soft Southern Dutch guttural G, a short O (as in "log"), and another soft guttural G. As with any Dutch last name, the "van" is spelled without its capital letter when preceded by the first name or initial.
Van Gogh was born to a minister and his wife, a Replacement Goldfish to their dead son. After growing up with his brother Theo and going to boarding school, he left his small home in the Netherlands to work at an art dealer. After expressing rage at the thought of art becoming a commodity, he was fired. He fell in love with the landlord's daughter Eugénie Loyer, who rejected him when he finally confessed his feelings. This would start a chain of romantic failures. Van Gogh proposed to his cousin Kee Vos-Stricker, who had no interest in him. Van Gogh held his hand over an open flame, saying he would hold it there until he could change her mind. She absolutely refused him. Van Gogh fell in love with a prostitute named Sien Hoornick. Van Gogh's father did not approve of the marriage. She drowned herself in the river in 1904.
Van Gogh fell into depression, but decided to enroll in a school to do something with his life. He befriended Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec there, but because of his problems their friendship fell out. He then moved to Arles, which he described as a disgusting and filthy city. This didn't show in his artwork, as he made some of his most colorful and vibrant pictures of the city there. He found a friend in Paul Gauguin, and waited for him to join him at the yellow house he bought in the country side. He painted paintings for Gauguin and asked after him constantly, which annoyed Gauguin. In a fit of his mental illness he cut off the lobe of his ear in a fight with Gauguin, begging him not to leave. He gave the bit of flesh to a prostitute at a hotel. After increasing tension and a state of angry paranoia and mental illness, he returned home. There 30 townspeople made a petition to get rid of him. He was having paranoid delusions of people trying to poison him. They called him fou roux (the redheaded fool/madman) and had him committed to an asylum.
He threw himself into painting at the asylum, making brilliant painting after painting. After he left, he remained reclusive in his yellow house. In 1890 he shot himself in the chest with a revolver in the middle of a field. Unfortunately for him, he survived and had to stay in the hospital another two days, eventually dying of infections from the gunshot wounds.
Recent academic research and told on a recent segment of 60 Minutes that van Gogh might not have shot himself as the tale goes but received his fatal wound as a result of a village boy shooting him by accident.
- The Alcoholic
- Beard of Sorrow
- Common Knowledge: Vincent didn't cut off his whole ear. It was only his lobe!
- Dead Artists Are Better
- Dogged Nice Guy
- Driven to Suicide: Sort of. He did shoot himself, but it took complications from the injury to finish the job.
- Forgets to Eat: Another thing that contributed to his poor health. He often used the very little money he got from his brother to buy art supplies, and the only thing he'd buy to consume was coffee and thujone.
- Genre Popularizer: Post-Impressionism
- Ho Yay: Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, at least from Vincent's side. He kept begging Gauguin to come and live with him in Arles and gave him dozens of paintings, basically saying "please be my friend." Unfortunately for him, Gauguin didn't really respect him as an artist and was probably a little creeped out. Their relationship began to deteriorate and poor Vincent cut off his ear with a razor to keep Gauguin from leaving him. Gauguin's response to this was to... leave, and Vincent was soon after committed to a mental hospital. He often asked his brother Theo to have Gauguin come and see him, and at one point he wrote "I think about him all the time."
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": The correct Dutch pronunciation of Van Gogh is as follows: "van" rhymes with "one", and "Gogh" is a soft Southern Dutch guttural G, a short O (as in "log"), and another soft guttural G. Not "Van Goth", "Van Goff" or "Van Go". Note that Van Gogh was born in the southern province of Brabant, so he wouldn't have used the rough guttural G that's used in standard Dutch.
- Loners Are Freaks
- Lost in the Maize: He attempted suicide in a cornfield, and supposedly his last painting was of one.
- Mad Artist: Famously. The Long List of his many health problems:
- Bipolar disorder
- Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: Random seizures without altered conciousness, but ending in a state of confusion and paranoia.
- Thujone poisoning (from his absinthe alcoholism)
- Lead and chromium poisoning (chromium yellows had recently been introduced and he used a LOT of them).
- Hypergraphia (a condition in which you feel the need to write continuously, which might explain why he wrote 800 letters in his lifetime)
- Sunstroke: He often got so wrapped up in painting outside he forgot that he was about to pass out.
- Some historians believe he was also a paranoid schizophrenic.
- Magnum Opus: The Starry Night is considered his best.
- Mood Swinger: Justified, as he was bipolar.
- Must Have Caffeine: Letters to his brother indicate that he ate close to nothing and stayed alive on coffee and absinthe.
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: As mentioned above, 30 townspeople made a petition to get rid of him.
- Nice Hat
- Not Good with People
- Picture Pastiche: Just one example: Look familiar?
- Post Something Ism: Post-Impressionism, which became popular when his work gained acceptance.
- Reclusive Artist
- Redheaded Hero
- Replacement Goldfish: Vincent had an older brother who died at birth, also named Vincent, born on the same day as him, but one year earlier. Every week when his family went to church, Vincent would have to walk past a gravestone with, essentially, his name and birthdate on it, only off by one year.
- Starving Artist: Literally. Poor nutrition also was a contributing factor to his terrible health.
- There Are No Therapists: At least until Saint Remy. Historians have speculated that a lot of his problems came from him actually being a paranoid schizophrenic, which couldn't have been treated then.
- The Unpronounceable: His surname; in English people argue whether it's Van Go or Van Goff, while the actual Dutch pronunciation is quite different from either.
- Vindicated by History: Van Gogh's art was never highly regarded until after his death, when a series of memorial exhibitions cemented his reputation. He is now generally considered one of the greatest artists who has ever lived.