Vincent Van Gogh
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005



Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

to Volume 3 Table of Contents


Vincent van Gogh—Painter:

(1853-1890) March 30 1853, Groot Jundert, Holland (about 11:00 AM, LMT) (Source: birth certificate. Also, Sabian Symbols and Gauquelin) Died of self-inflicted gunshot wound, July 27, 1890, near Paris.


Ascendant, Cancer; Sun and Mercury in Aries; MC in Pisces with Mars conjunct Venus in Pisces conjunct the MC, with Neptune also in Pisces; Moon in Sagittarius conjunct Jupiter in Sagittarius; Uranus conjunct Pluto in Taurus with Saturn also in Taurus

Vincent van Gogh has become a legend, a living symbol of the tragic life of the artist. He was an intense (sixth ray) man (as his brilliant, almost shocking canvases reveal), and he was both difficult and unhappy. His disappointments were many—both in love (Saturn conjunct Juno, the asteroid of relationships, Mars conjunct Venus) and religion; thus he turned to art (Venus conjunct Mars, both conjunct the MC or career point).

Van Gogh’s bold and original use of color correlate with the dramatic fourth ray, as does his tremendously con?icted life. The sheer originality and raw, upwelling energy of van Gogh are represented by Aries and a Uranus/Pluto conjunction (both of them planets representative of the first ray) in fourth ray Taurus. He carried everything to extremes (sixth ray Mars, exoteric ruler of his Aries Sun, conjunct Venus, both in Pisces; sixth ray Neptune is the esoteric ruler of his Cancer Ascendant; thus two sixth ray planets are his two principal rulers).

His tenderness and close family ties are represented by his Cancer Ascendant and Venus in Pisces. He had tremendous compassion for the oppressed (again Venus in Pisces, and an elevated ruling Neptune). His powerful religious aspiration (he was a minister before he became an artist) is represented by his Sagittarius planets Jupiter in religious sixth ray Sagittarius conjunct the impulsive Sagittarian Moon, both conjunct the South Node (the past) in the sixth house, the house of service and labor. Neptune, the sixth ray esoteric ruler of his Ascendant is in the Sagittarian house (H9), one of the houses of religion.

His artistic ideas came rapidly (Jupiter conjunct the Moon, both trine Mercury in Aries). Mercury is the esoteric ruler of his Sun, contributing to his originality, the uniqueness of his canvases. His ‘school’ of painting was his own. Mercury, however, is also conjunct depressive Pluto, giving him profound depth but also self-destructive tendencies.

Violence comes from Aries and Sagittarius and extreme sensitivity from planets in both Cancer and Pisces—a difficult combination reinforce by his strong fourth ray.

As his life progressed, he grew increasingly disturbed and was finally placed under care. But these measures came too late and he committed suicide, shooting himself, and dying on July 29, 1890 (violent Mars, the exoteric ruler of his Aries Sun, conjunct the MC, and Uranus, planet of suddenness, conjunct Pluto, the planet of death, Uranus ruling the house of death, H8. Chiron, the inflictor of wounds, is also square the Aries Sun.)

Van Gogh’s rays are hypothesized as principally the fourth and the sixth. He came to bring a new, shocking, electrifying, transcendent and yet realistic vision of the world. Assuming a fourth ray soul, we see (as the Tibetan has suggested) that van Gogh’s use of color was brilliant but his rendering of the form was far less exacting (evidence of a prominent fourth ray but less essential seventh ray—even though Aries and Cancer distribute the seventh ray).

The fourth ray has conduits into the chart through Sagittarius (holding the wildly enthusiastic Moon/Jupiter conjunction) and through Taurus (holding Saturn, Uranus and Pluto). Neptune in Pisces in the visionary ninth house can be associated with the fourth, or buddhic, plane, and confers the transcendent vision—the heightening of reality towards surrealism (Starry Night), and yet, realistic Saturn in earthy Taurus, sextile the watery Venus in Pisces, keeps many of van Gogh’s theme down to earth. He was very focussed on the life of the French peasants, documenting their hardship and often poverty with uncompromising realism (and compassion— Venus and Neptune, both planets of love, in second ray Pisces).

The Potato Eaters is an example. The unbridled (Sagittarius) intensity of his life suggests the sixth ray personality, which has powerful, reinforcing conduits into the life from the Moon/Jupiter conjunction in sixth ray Sagittarius in the sixth house, sixth ray Mars (Sun exoteric ruler) in sixth ray Pisces conjunct the MC, and sixth ray Neptune (the Cancer Ascendant’s esoteric ruler) in sixth ray Pisces in the ninth house, related by zodiacal association with the sixth ray.

The raw desperation of van Gogh’s is apparent. There was no moderation (a gift of the seventh ray) or caution (conferred by the third). Whether or not any of his vehicles were directly conditioned by the first ray, it is expressed powerfully in his chart through the Sun in first ray Aries, ruled by Mars in a Pluto sign, Pisces, and first ray Pluto and essentially first ray Uranus conjunct in a Vulcan sign, Taurus.

It can be said of van Gogh that he forced us (Aries) to see a new vision of the world (fourth and sixth rays). He was compelled to paint (Mars conjunct Venus, Part of Fortune conjunct Venus and about midway between Venus and the Aries Sun), and, it seems, to suffer—at once disturbing and enriching those who approach his world through his eyes.



A good picture is equivalent to a good deed.
(Moon & Jupiter in Sagittarius in 6th house.)

As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.

Conscience is a man's compass.

Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.

Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together.

Happiness... it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.

How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?
(Moon & Jupiter in Sagittarius in 6th house. Saturn, Uranus & Pluto in 11th house.)

I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate.
(Sagittarian Moon opposition North Node.)

I can't work without a model. I won't say I turn my back on nature ruthlessly in order to turn a study into a picture, arranging the colors, enlarging and simplifying; but in the matter of form I am too afraid of departing from the possible and the true.

I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.
(Neptune in Pisces sextile Chiron in Capricorn.)

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.

I wish they would only take me as I am.

If boyhood and youth are but vanity, must it not be our ambition to become men?

If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into and understanding of many things.
Vincent Van Gogh

If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures.

Love is something eternal, the aspect may change, but not the essence.
(Venus in Pisces.)

Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.
(Venus & Mars conjunct in Pisces in 10th house.)

One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.
(Aries Sun, Cancer Ascendant.)

The best way to know God is to love many things.
(Venus in Pisces.)

The Mediterranean has the color of mackerel, changeable I mean. You don't always know if it is green or violet, you can't even say it's blue, because the next moment the changing reflection has taken on a tint of rose or gray.

The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic that to love others.

There is no blue without yellow and without orange.

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
(Aries Sun.)

When I have a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion. Then I go out and paint the stars.
(Jupiter in Sagittarius. Neptune in Pisces.)

An artist needn’t be a clergyman or a churchwarden, but he certainly must have a warm heart for his fellow men.
(Mars, Venus and Neptune in Pisces. Cancer Ascendant.)

Still, there is a calm, pure harmony, and music inside of me.
(Neptune in Pisces.)

The fishermen know the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.
(Sun in Aries.)

It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all to prudent.
(Moon & Jupiter in Sagittarius.)

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

Love is something eternal—the aspects may change, but not the essence. There is the same difference in a person before and after he is in love as there is in an unlighted lamp and one that is burning. The lamp was there and it is a good lamp, but now it is shedding light, too, and that is its real function.

A life without love is a sinful and immoral thing.

For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.
(Mars square Moon. Saturn in Taurus.)

Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.

If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle.
(Venus & Neptune in Pisces.)

Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul.

But to look at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots of a map representing towns and villages. Why, I ask myself, should the shining dots of the sky not be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? If we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. One thing undoubtedly true in this reasoning is this: that while we are alive we cannot get to a star, any more than when we are dead we can take the train.

Painting is a faith, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion.

Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.

I am crazy about two colors: carmine and cobalt. Cobalt is a divine color and there is nothing so beautiful for creating atmosphere. Carmine is as warm and lively as wine... the same with emerald green.

How lovely yellow is! It stands for the sun.
(Sun in Aries.)

I am always hoping to make a discovery here, to express the feelings of two lovers by a marriage of two complementary colors, their minglings and their oppositions, the mysterious vibrations of kindred tones.

I believe that one thinks much more soundly if the thoughts arise from direct contact with things, than if one looks at things with the aim of finding this or that in them.
(Saturn in Taurus.)

I do not know myself how I paint it. I sit down with a white board before the spot that strikes me. I look at what is before my eyes, and say to myself, that white board must become something.

As a suffering creature, I cannot do without something greater than I – something that is my life – the power to create.
(Aries Sun.)

In an artist's life, death is perhaps not the most difficult thing.

What am I in most people's eyes? A nonentity or an eccentric and disagreeable man... I should want my work to show what is in the heart of such an eccentric, of such a nobody.

In a certain way I am glad I have not learned painting.
(Neptune in Pisces in 9th house.)

I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.

I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.
(Cancer Ascendant. Venus in Pisces.)

Color in a picture is like enthusiasm in life.

I have walked this earth for 30 years, and, out of gratitude, want to leave some souvenir.

I hope I shall be able to make some drawings in which there is something human.

Just dash something down if you see a blank canvas staring at you with a certain imbecility. You do not know how paralyzing it is, that staring of a blank canvas which says to the painter: you don't know anything.

There is something intimate about painting I cannot explain to you – but it is so delightful just for expressing one's feelings.

My aim in life is to make pictures and drawings, as many and as well as I can; then, at the end of my life... looking back with love and tender regret, and thinking, 'Oh, the pictures I might have made!' But this does not exclude making what is possible...

When I have a model who is quiet and steady and with whom I am acquainted, then I draw repeatedly 'til there is one drawing that is different from the rest, which does not look like an ordinary study, but more typical and with more feeling.

If we study Japanese art, we see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic and intelligent, who spends his time doing what?... He studies a single blade of grass.

The cypresses are always occupying my thoughts.

The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting.

In painting I want to say something comforting in the way that music is comforting. (Neptune in Pisces. Cancer Ascendant.)

I tried to express through red and green the terrible passions of humanity.

I am a man of passions, capable of and subject to doing more or less foolish things – which I happen to regret, more or less, afterwards.

If you work diligently... without saying to yourself beforehand, 'I want to make this or that,' if you work as though you were making a pair of shoes, without artistic preoccupation, you will not always find you do well. But the days you least expect it, you will find a subject which holds its own with the work of those who have gone before.

Ah! Portraiture, portraiture with the thought, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come.

I want to paint men and women with that something of the external which the halo used to symbolize, and which we now seek to give by the actual radiance and vibrancy of our colorings.

If I were to think of and dwell on disastrous possibilities, I could do nothing. I throw myself headlong into my work, and come up again with my studies.

Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do. With such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.
(North Node in 12th house.)

Accurate drawing, accurate colour, is perhaps not the essential thing to aim at, because the reflection of reality in a mirror, if it could be caught, colour and all, would not be a picture at all, no more than a photograph.

I had a new idea in my head... this time it's just simply my bedroom, only here colour is to do everything, and, giving by its simplification a grander style to things, is to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In a word, to look at the picture ought to rest the brain or rather the imagination.

I want to do drawings which touch some people... In either figure or landscape I wish to express, not sentimental melancholy, but serious sorrow.

I come back dissatisfied – I put it away, and when I have rested a little, I go and look at it with a kind of fear. Then I am still dissatisfied, because I still have that splendid scene too clearly in my mind to be satisfied with what I have made of it. But I find in my work an echo of what struck me...

How difficult it is to be simple.

When using colors to recreate a general harmony of tones in nature, one loses it by painfully exact imitation. One keeps it by recreating in an equivalent color range, and that may not be exactly, or far from exactly, like the model.

Perhaps someday everyone will have neurosis.

I never get tired of the blue sky.

There are so many people, especially among our comrades, who imagine that words are nothing – on the contrary, isn't it true that saying a thing well is as interesting and as difficult as painting it?

The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.

To Gauguin he writes: "I wanted all these different colors to express a totally restful feeling."
Gauguin finally arrives in Arles in October, painting and discussing art for nine weeks with Vincent. Paul makes a portrait of Vincent in front of one of his sunflower canvases, which Vincent describes as "certainly me, but me gone mad."


Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh (March 30, 1853–July 29, 1890) was a Dutch painter, generally considered one of the greatest painters in European art history. He produced all of his work (some 900 paintings and 1100 drawings) during a period of only ten years before he succumbed to mental illness (possibly bipolar disorder) and committed suicide. He had little success during his lifetime, but his posthumous fame grew rapidly, especially following a showing of 71 of van Gogh's paintings in Paris on March 17, 1901 (11 years after his death).

Van Gogh's influence on expressionism, fauvism and early abstraction was enormous, and can be seen in many other aspects of 20th-century art. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is dedicated to Van Gogh's work and that of his contemporaries. The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo (also in the Netherlands), has a considerable collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings as well.

Several paintings by Van Gogh rank among the most expensive paintings in the world. On March 30, 1987, van Gogh's painting Irises was sold for a record US$53.9 million at Sotheby's; on May 15, 1990, his Portrait of Doctor Gachet was sold for $82.5 million at Christie's, thus establishing a new price record.

Life and work
Vincent was born in Zundert, the son of Anna Cornelia Carbentus and Theodorus van Gogh, a Protestant minister. Van Gogh found his father's profession appealing and would be drawn to it later in his life. His sister described him as serious and introspective.

At age 16, van Gogh started to work for the art dealer Goupilator & Company in the Hague. His brother Theo, four years his junior and with whom Vincent cherished a lifelong friendship, would join the company later. This friendship is amply documented in the large collection of letters they sent each other. These letters have been preserved and were published in 1914. They provide much insight into the life of the painter, and show him to be a talented writer with a keen mind. Theo would support Vincent financially throughout his life.

In 1873, his firm transferred him to London, then to Paris. He became increasingly interested in religion; in 1876, Goupil dismissed him for lack of motivation. He became a teaching assistant in Ramsgate in Kent, England, then returned to Amsterdam to study theology in 1877.

After dropping out in 1878, he became a lay minister in Belgium in a poor mining region known as the Borinage. He even preached down in the mines and was extremely concerned with the lot of the workers. He was dismissed after six months and continued without pay. During this period he started to produce charcoal sketches.

In 1880, Vincent followed the suggestion of his brother Theo and took up painting in earnest. For a brief period Vincent took painting lessons from Anton Mauve at the Hague. Although Vincent and Anton soon split over a divergence of artistic views, influences of the Hague School of painting would remain in Vincent's work, notably in the way he played with light and in the looseness of his brush strokes. However his usage of color, favoring dark tones, set him apart from his teacher.

In 1881, he declared his love to his widowed cousin Kee Vos, who rejected him. Later he would move in with the prostitute Sien Hoornik and her children and considered marrying her; his father was strictly against this relationship and even his brother Theo advised against it. They later separated.

Impressed and influenced by Jean-François Millet, van Gogh focused on painting peasants and rural scenes. He moved to the Dutch province Drenthe, later to Nuenen, North Brabant, also in The Netherlands. Here he painted in 1885 The Potato Eaters (Dutch Aardappeleters, now in The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam).

In the winter of 1885–1886, Van Gogh attended the art academy of Antwerp. This proved a disappointment, as he was dismissed after a few months by Professor Eugène Siberdt. Van Gogh did, however, become familiar with Japanese art during this period, which he started to collect eagerly. He admired its bright colors, use of canvas space and the role lines played in the picture. These impressions would influence him strongly. Van Gogh made some paintings in Japanese style. Also some of the portraits he painted are set against a background which shows Japanese art.

In spring 1886, Van Gogh went to Paris, where he moved in with his brother Theo; they shared a house on Montmartre. Here he met the painters Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Emile Bernard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin. He discovered impressionism and liked its use of light and color, more than its lack of social engagement (as he saw it). (It should be noted that Van Gogh is regarded as a post-impressionist, rather than an impressionist.)

He especially liked the technique known as pointillism (where many small dots are applied to the canvas that blend into rich colors only in the eye of the beholder, seeing it from a distance) made its mark on Van Goghs own style. Van Gogh also used complementary colors, especially blue and orange, in close proximity in order to enhance the brilliance of each.

In 1888, when city life and living with his brother proved too much, Van Gogh left Paris and went to Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. He was impressed with the local landscape and hoped to found an art colony. He decorated a "yellow house" and created a celebrated series of yellow sunflower paintings for this purpose.

Only Paul Gauguin, whose simplified colour schemes and forms (known as synthetism) attracted van Gogh, followed his invitation. The admiration was mutual, and Gauguin painted van Gogh painting sunflowers. However their encounter ended in a quarrel. Van Gogh suffered a mental breakdown (possibly induced by absinthe) and cut off part of his left ear, which he gave to a startled prostitute friend. Gauguin left in December 1888.

One of Vincent's famous paintings, the Bedroom in Arles, uses bright yellow and unusual perspective effects in depicting the interior of his bedroom. The boldly vanishing lines are sometimes attributed to his changing mental condition. The only painting he sold during his lifetime, The Red Vineyard, was created in 1888. It is now on display in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, Russia.

Van Gogh now exchanged painting dots for small stripes. He suffered from depression, and in 1889 on his own request Van Gogh was admitted to the psychiatric center at Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy de Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. During his stay here the clinic and its garden became his main subject. At this time his work began to be dominated by swirls. This is especially shown in his most famous painting, The Starry Night.

In May 1890, Vincent left the clinic and went to the physician Paul Gachet, in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, where he was closer to his brother Theo, who had recently married. Gachet had been recommended to him by Pissarro; he had treated several artists before. Here van Gogh created his only etching: a portrait of the melancholic doctor Gachet.

His depression deepened, and on July 27, at the age of 37, van Gogh shot himself in the chest. Without realizing that he was fatally wounded, he returned to the Ravoux Inn, where he died two days later, with Theo at his side, who reported his last words as "La tristesse durera toujours" (French for "the sadness will last forever"). He was buried at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise; Theo, unable to come to terms with his brother's death, died six months later and, at his wife's request, was buried next to Vincent. While many have mistakenly thought that Wheat Field with Crows was van Gogh's last work before his suicide (because of its turbulent style), it is more likely that van Gogh's last work was Daubigny's Garden.

It would not take long before van Gogh's fame grew higher and higher. Large exhibitions were organized soon: Paris (1901), Amsterdam (1905), Cologne (1912), New York City (1913) and Berlin (1914).

Van Gogh's life forms the basis for Irving Stone's biographical novel Lust for Life.

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch postimpressionist painter whose work represents the archetype of expressionism, the idea of emotional spontaneity in painting. Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, son of a Dutch Protestant pastor. Early in life he displayed a moody, restless temperament that was to thwart his every pursuit. By the age of 27 he had been in turn a salesman in an art gallery, a French tutor, a theological student, and an evangelist among the miners at Wasmes in Belgium. His experiences as a preacher are reflected in his first paintings of peasants and potato diggers; of these early works, the best known is the rough, earthy Potato Eaters (1885, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam). Dark and somber, sometimes crude, these early works evidence van Gogh's intense desire to express the misery and poverty of humanity as he saw it among the miners in Belgium.

In 1886 van Gogh went to Paris to live with his brother Théo van Gogh, an art dealer, and became familiar with the new art movements developing at the time. Influenced by the work of the impressionists and by the work of such Japanese printmakers as Hiroshige and Hokusai, van Gogh began to experiment with current techniques. Subsequently, he adopted the brilliant hues found in the paintings of the French artists Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat.

In 1888 van Gogh left Paris for southern France, where, under the burning sun of Provence, he painted scenes of the fields, cypress trees, peasants, and rustic life characteristic of the region. During this period, living at Arles, he began to use the swirling brush strokes and intense yellows, greens, and blues associated with such typical works as Bedroom at Arles (1888, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh), and Starry Night (1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York City). For van Gogh all visible phenomena, whether he painted or drew them, seemed to be endowed with a physical and spiritual vitality. In his enthusiasm he induced the painter Paul Gauguin, whom he had met earlier in Paris, to join him. After less than two months they began to have violent disagreements, culminating in a quarrel in which van Gogh wildly threatened Gauguin with a razor; the same night, in deep remorse, van Gogh cut off part of his own ear. For a time he was in a hospital at Arles. He then spent a year in the nearby asylum of Saint-Rémy, working between repeated spells of madness. Under the care of a sympathetic doctor, whose portrait he painted (Dr. Gachet, 1890, Musée du Louvre, Paris), van Gogh spent three months at Auvers. Just after completing his ominous Crows in the Wheatfields (1890, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh), he shot himself on July 27, 1890, and died two days later. The more than 700 letters that van Gogh wrote to his brother Théo (published 1911, translated 1958) constitute a remarkably illuminating record of the life of an artist and a thorough documentation of his unusually fertile output—about 750 paintings and 1600 drawings. The French painter Chaim Soutine, and the German painters Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Emil Nolde, owe more to van Gogh than to any other single source. In 1973 the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, containing over 1000 paintings, sketches, and letters, was opened in Amsterdam.

Vincent Willem van Gogh is born on March 30, 1853, in Zundert, in the south of the Netherlands, as the oldest son of Theodorus van Gogh, a preacher and Anna Cornelia Carbentus. Four years later, in 1857,Vincent's favorite brother, Theodorus (Theo), is born.

At the age of 16, in July 1869, Vincent starts an apprenticeship at Goupil & Cie, international art dealers with headquarters in Paris. He works in the Hague at a branch gallery established by his uncle Vincent. In August 1872, from the Hague, Vincent begins writing letters to Theo. Their correspondence continues for almost 18 years. Theo accepts a position at Goupil's in January 1873, working in Brussels before his transfer to the Hague a few months later.

In June 1873, Vincent is moved to Goupil in London. Daily contact with works of art kindles his appreciation of paintings and drawings. He admires the realistic paintings of peasant life by Jean-François Millet and Jules Breton. Gradually Vincent loses interest in his work and turns to the Bible. He is transferred to Paris, to London and Paris again, to then be dismissed from Goupil's in March 1876. Driven by a growing desire to help his fellow man, he decides to become a clergyman.

Vincent returns to England in 1876 to work as a teacher and assistant preacher at a boarding school. In November, Van Gogh delivers his first sermon. His interest in evangelical Christianity and ministering to the poor becomes obsessional. Due to a lack of professional perspectives, he returns to Amsterdam in 1877. When he is refused admittance in theology school, Vincent briefly enters a missionary school near Brussels and in December 1878 leaves for the Borinage, a coal-mining area in southern Belgium, to work as a lay preacher. Vincent identifies with the miners, sleeping on the floor and giving away his belongings. His extreme commitment draws disfavor from the church and he is dismissed.

Vincent's desire to be useful, transforms into the wish to become an artist while still be in God's service. He writes: "To try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another, in a picture." Vincent moves to Brussels and studies independently, sometimes assisted by Dutch artist Anthon van Rappard. Because Vincent has no livelihood, Theo, who is at Goupil's Paris branch, supports him. He did this regularly until the end of Vincent's life. Because of that, Vincent considers his work as the fruit of their combined efforts.

When he decides to become an artist, nobody could have guessed his immense talent. With surprising speed, the clumsy but enthousiastic apprentice develops a strong artistic personality with his color effects and simple but unforgettable compositions. At his parents' house in Etten, he refines his drawing techniques. Vincent leaves at the end of 1881 to rent a studio in La Hague.Vincent makes his first independent watercolor and painted studies in the summer of 1882. His uncle Cornelis van Gogh commissions him to produce 12 views of The Hague.

In September 1883 Vincent travels to the province of Drenthe in the northeastern Netherlands. He paints the landscape and peasants, but lonely and lacking proper materials, he soon leaves for Nuenen, in Brabant, to live with his parents. Following in the footsteps of Millet and Breton, by 1884 Vincent resolves to be a painter of peasant life. Tensions develop when Vincent accuses Theo of not making a sincere enough effort to sell the paintings Vincent has begun to send him.

Theo admonishes Vincent that his darkly colored paintings are not in the current Parisian style, where Impressionist artists are now using a bright palette. In 1885, Vincent completes the Potato Eaters, his first large-scale composition and first masterpiece.

After a long stay in the countryside of Brabant, Vincent leaves the Netherlands for the Belgian city of Antwerp in November 1885. He will never return to his native country. Van Gogh is invigorated by Antwerp's urbaneness: "I find here the friction of ideas I want." He has access to better art supplies and is exposed to the collections of Dutch and Belgian art. Among the exotic goods entering Europe through Antwerp are Japanese woodblock prints, which Vincent starts to collect. In January 1886, Vincent enrolls in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp but he withdraws within two months.

In early 1886, Vincent moves in with Theo in Montmartre. It is a crucial period of development for his painting style. Theo, who manages the Montmartre branch of Goupil's (now called Boussod, Valadon & Cie), acquaints Vincent with the works of Claude Monet and other Impressionists. Now he sees for himself how the Impressionists handle light and color, and treat the town and country themes. He begins to meet the city's modern artists, including Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Camille Pissarro. Vincent's Paris work is an effort to assimilate the influences around him; his palette becomes brighter, his brushwork more broken. Like the Impressionists, Vincent takes his subjects from the city's cafés and boulevards, and the open countryside along the Seine River. Through Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, he discovers the stippling technique of Pointillism "What is required in art nowadays," he writes, "is something very much alive, very strong in color, very much intensified."

Unable to afford models to perfect his skills, Vincent turns to his own image: "I deliberately bought a good mirror so that if I lacked a model I could work from my own likeness." He paints at least 20 self-portraits in Paris. His experiments in style and color can be read in the series. The earliest are executed in the grays and browns of his Brabant period; these dark colors soon give way to yellows, reds, greens, and blues, and his brushwork takes on the disconnected stroke of the Impressionists.

To his sister he writes: "My intention is to show that a variety of very different portraits can be made of the same person." One of the last portraits Vincent paints in Paris, Self-Portrait as an Artist, is a dramatic illustration of his personal and artistic identity. Vincent regularly paints outdoors in Asnières, a village near Paris where the Impressionists often set up their easels. Later, he writes to his sister Wil: "And when I painted the landscape in Asnières this summer, I saw more colors there than ever before."

Among his new friends Vincent counts the painters he refers to as the "artists of the Petit Boulevard" -- Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac, Bernard, and Louis Anquetin-artists who are younger and not as famous as the Impressionists. He organizes a group show of his and his friends' paintings at a Paris restaurant. The artists often gather at Père Tanguy's paint shop, where Vincent regularly sees Gauguin. Tanguy, who generously advances supplies to many young artists, occasionally displays Vincent's paintings in his store window. Vincent buys Japanese prints and studies them intensively. He arranges an exhibition of Japanese woodcuts at a Paris café and his own work takes on the stylized contours and expressive coloration of his Japanese examples.

In early 1888, Vincent leaves for Provence in the south of France: "It appears to me to be almost impossible to work in Paris." He rents a studio in Arles, the "Yellow House," and invites Paul Gauguin to join him. In anticipation of his arrival, Vincent paints still lifes of sunflowers to decorate Gauguin's room. Paul describes the paintings as "completely Vincent." Inspired by the bright colors and strong light of Provence, Vincent executes painting after painting in his own powerful language. "I am getting an eye for this kind of country," he writes to Theo. Whereas in Paris his works covered a large range of subjects and techniques, the Arles paintings are consistent in approach. Vincent enters a period of immense creative activity. He has little to distract him from his painting, for he knows almost no one: "Whole days go by without my speaking a single word to anyone." He befriends the local postman, Joseph Roulin, and paints portraits of his entire family. Captivated by the spectacle of spring in Provence, Vincent paints the blossoming fruit trees and later, in summer, scenes of rural life. He paints outdoors, often in a single long session: "Working directly on the spot all the time, I tried to grasp what is essential." He identifies each season and subject with specific colors: "The orchards stand for pink and white, the wheatfields for yellow." Color also becomes an expressive, emotional tool. For "Bedroom in Arles", he depicts his room with a stark simplicity, using uniform patches of complimentary orange and blue, yellow and violet, red and green.

Personal tensions grow between the two men. In December, Vincent experiences a psychotic episode in which he threatens Gauguin with a razor and later cuts off a piece of his own left ear. He is admitted to a hospital in Arles and stays there through January of 1889. Theo, in Paris, marries Johanna Bonger in the spring.

After his discharge from the hospital in Arles, he voluntarily admits himself to the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy, 15 miles from Arles. He attributes his breakdown to excessive alcohol and tobacco, giving up neither. Fearful of a relapse, in May 1889 he writes: "I wish to remain shut up as much for my own peace of mind as for other people's." The admitting physician notes that Vincent suffers from "acute mania with hallucinations of sight and hearing." Although subject to intermittent attacks, Vincent converts an adjacent cell into a studio, where he produces 150 paintings.

Vincent paints the world he sees from his room, deleting the bars that obscure his view. In the hospital's walled garden he paints irises, lilacs, and ivy-covered trees. Later he is allowed to venture farther afield, and he paints the wheatfields, olive groves, and cypress trees of the surrounding countryside. The imposed regimen of asylum life gives Vincent a hard-won stability. When losing the confidence to execute original works, Vincent regains his bearings by painting copies after his favorite artists, including Millet, Rembrandt and Delacroix. He makes more than twenty copies of Millet's peasant scenes, and reinvents Delacroix's Pieta, in which the bearded Christ bears some resemblance to himself. After one particularly violent attack, in which he tries to poison himself by swallowing paint, Vincent is forced to restrict himself to drawing. While in Arles and Saint-Rémy, Vincent sends his canvases to Theo in Paris.

Despite his illness, he paints one masterwork after another, including Irises, Cypresses, and The Starry Night. Theo encourages his brother: "They have an intensity of color you have not attained before . . . but you have gone even further than that. . . . I see that you have achieved in many of your canvases . . . the quintessence of your thoughts about nature and living beings."

Others are beginning to notice Vincent's work, too. The progressive Belgian artists' group "Les Vingt" includes six of his paintings in their 1890 exhibition. When Vincent exhibits recent work at the Salon des Indépendants - two canvases in 1889 and ten in 1890 - friends in Paris assure him of their success. "Many artists think your work has been the most striking at the exhibition," writes Gauguin. Theo's son, Vincent Willem van Gogh, is born in January 1890.

After his long period of confinement at Saint-Rémy, Vincent leaves for Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris in May 1890. Though removed from the immoderate pace of life in Paris, he is close enough that he can easily visit Theo. Vincent places himself in the care of Paul Gachet, a homeopathic physician and himself an amateur painter. Vincent warms to Gachet immediately, writing to Theo that he had "found a perfect friend in Dr. Gachet, something like another brother." Gachet advises Vincent to concentrate entirely on his painting. Vincent paints portraits of his new acquaintances and the surrounding landscape, including nearby wheatfields and the garden of the painter Daubigny. Working with great intensity, he produces nearly a painting a day over the next two months. Vincent briefly enjoys a peaceful, mentally stable period. In early July Vincent visits Theo in Paris.

Theo is considering setting up his own business, and he warns Vincent that they will all have to tighten their belts. Strongly affected by Theo's dissatisfaction, Vincent grows increasingly tense: "My life is also threatened at the very root, and my steps are also wavering."

On July 27, 1890, Vincent walks to a wheatfield and shoots himself in the chest. He stumbles back to his lodging, where he dies two days later, on July 29, with Theo at his side. He is buried in Auvers on July 30. Among the mourners are Lucien Pissarro, Emile Bernard, and Père Tanguy. Bernard describes how Vincent's coffin is covered with yellow flowers, "his favorite color . . . . Close by, too, his easel, his camp stool, and his brushes had been placed on the ground beside the coffin."

Vincent's paintings are left to Theo, but his true legacy will be realized in his powerful influence on artists of the twentieth century. Theo holds a memorial exhibition of Vincent's paintings in September 1890 in his Paris apartment. His own health suffers a precipitous decline, and on January 25, 1891, Theo dies. His widow returns to the Netherlands with their infant son and her husband's legacy, the collection of Vincent's paintings. After Johanna's death in 1925 the collection is inherited by her son, Vincent Willem van Gogh (1890-1978).

On the initiative of the Dutch state, which pledges to build a museum devoted to Van Gogh, Vincent Willem van Gogh, in 1962, transfers the works he owns to the newly formed Vincent van Gogh Foundation. Construction of the museum building, designed by the modernist Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, begins in 1969. The museum officially opens its doors in 1973. Since then, the building houses the largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh, on loan from the Vincent van Gogh Foundation.


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