Wednesday, July 29, 2015

125 Years From Death To Master

Artists will always have favorites and influences, it could be another artist, a style, an artistic movement or even something as simple as nature or a color. As a sketch artist and painter my influences vary and include cartoonist Johnny Heart and Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. During college I became enamored with the early 20th Century Futurism movement and Italian painter Umberto Boccioni but the one artist that has remained my favorite since I was a child has been Vincent van Gogh.

It was 125 years ago today that van Gogh passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.

His life is not something of celebration, he was actually quite melancholy from an early age. He was surrounded by art early in life including his mother and uncle, who owned an art dealership. He worked at his uncle’s dealership in his teens, eventually moving to the Groupil Gallery in London when he was 20 years old.
During his life he lived a catastrophic love life, often falling in love with troubled woman and prostitutes. While in London he fell in love with a woman who rejected him and he turned to religion hoping to become a minister, which he failed at due to his stubbornness. It was around this time he turned to art. It was 1880 and he spent his final 10 years as an artist in France and the Netherlands.

His final two years he was in a downward mental illness spiral. In 1888 Vincent’s brother Theo offered French painter Paul Gauguin money to watch over Vincent and they moved in together to paint. It was December 23, 1888 when van Gogh and Gauguin got in a fight and Gauguin left only to be followed out of the house by van Gogh who was holding a razor. Vincent turned back and returned home, this is when he cut off his left ear lobe (not his entire ear like most people think), which later that evening he gave to a prostitute and asked her to care for it carefully. These last two years he was in and out of hospitals and sanitariums.

On July 27, 1890 he went out to paint in the morning but brought along a pistol. He shot himself in the chest but was able to return to his room before being found and brought to the hospital. He actually seemed to be in good spirits talking to people and smoking his pipe but on July 29th he asked Theo to take him home where he died in Theo’s arms.
During his time only one of his paintings sold. In January 1890 Theo sold “The Red Vineyards” for 400 francs. It wasn’t until 1901 when Theo’s widow Johanna collected his paintings and put them on display in Paris. Sadly his mother had destroyed and trashed a number of crates containing many of his early pieces but Johanna was able to gather roughly 2,100 pieces of his work including 860 oil paintings and 1,300 watercolors, drawings and sketches.
Since his death many of his paintings have sold for well over the 400 francs that he made during his lifetime including six of his paintings are listed in the Top 50 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold list. When I consider my favorite paintings there are two van Gogh’s paintings in my Top 5; #1 The Starry Night (1889) and #3 Starry Night Over The Rhone (1888). For the record the other paintings rounding out my Top 5 are #2 The Scream by Edvard Munch (There are actually 4 versions of The Scream), #4 The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai and #5 Dynamism of a Cyclist by Umberto Boccioni

Over the years I have added a couple of van Gogh cards and I am on the look out for others, Topps and Upper Deck have included various cards in sets like SP Legendary Cuts, Goodwin Champions and Allen & Ginters.


  1. I'm with you. Here was a tribute of mine:

  2. I've been thinking quite a bit about art lately. Not Van Gogh specifically, but it's nice to see an art-related post pop up on my blogroll while the subject is in my head.

  3. Great post. Van Gogh is my favorite artist too. In fact, you and I have very similar tastes in paintings. The Starry Night and The Great Wave Off Kanagawa are two of my personal faves.