9 Things you did not know about Vincent van Gogh
1. In less than 10 years he painted almost 900 paintings.
Despite only starting to paint at the age of 27 he still managed to paint 900 paintings before he committed suicide a decade later.
2. He only sold 1 painting during his lifetime.
Van Gogh was never famous as a painter in his lifetime and constantly struggled with poverty. He sold only one painting during his lifetime. One hundred years after his death his Portrait of Dr Gachet would become the most expensive painting to ever be sold. It would hold that title for 16 years.
Portrait of Dr Gachet
3. Much of Van Gogh’s work has been lost or destroyed.
Many people who owned his work initially thought it to be worthless. His own mother is said to have disposed of full crates of his paintings.
4. Van Gogh painted 43 self portraits.
He was neither vain nor egocentric, it was due to necessity rather than arrogance. He struggled to afford models and had few friends, the few friends who had could not always endure him.
5. He suffered from mental illness, alcoholism and malnutrition.
Van Gogh was troubled by mental illness most of his life. Evidence suggests that he had manic depression and suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions. His brother Theo felt there were two people within Vincent: ‘one marvellously gifted, refined and gentle, and the other selfish and unfeeling’. His physical health was neglected, His diet was said to consist of tobacco, coffee, alcohol and bread.
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Available to purchase here.
6. He mutilated his own ear (or did he?).
Supposedly van Gogh and his very close friend, Paul Gauguin, were having a quarrel. The argument got more and more heated until van Gogh threatened his friend with a razor. But instead of actually harming Gauguin, van Gogh sliced off part of his own ear – wrapping it in a cloth and later giving it to a prostitute.
Some historians, however, think Gaugin was to blame. This story goes that Gaugin, an excellent fencer, cut van Gogh’s ear with his sword during a fight, and the two artists agreed to hush up the truth to escape the police.
7. He was forced out of the town Arles by the locals.
Scared by his behaviour and following the ear incident, the Arles locals named him “le fou roux” (The Redheaded Madman) and rallied together to collect signatures for a petition against him (the Arles Petition). This caused van Gogh to leave Arles and check himself into the mental Asylum at Saint-Remy.
Starry Night. Museum quality prints are available to purchase here.
8. Van Gogh's most famous work, Starry Night, was painted while at the asylum.
Starry Night is a composition of 4 different sun rises which he could see through his asylum window, he understandably left out the rooms bars from the work.
9. His last words were “the sadness will last for ever”.
On July 27, 1890, van Gogh shot himself in the chest while painting. He was able to stagger to his dwelling in Auvers. Doctors tended to him, but the bullet could not be removed because there was no surgeon available. He died on July 29, 1890 from an infection in the wound.
His brother Theo said of his death “In the last letter which he wrote me and which dates from some four days before his death, it says, ‘I try to do as well as certain painters whom I have greatly loved and admired.’ People should realize that he was a great artist, something which often coincides with being a great human being. In the course of time this will surely be acknowledged, and many will regret his early death.”. Theo was certainly correct.