Amazing Facts About Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh in 1873, when he worked at the Goupil & Cie gallery in the Hague. (Van Gogh Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

He Never Saw His Success

As with many artistic greats, Vincent Van Gogh's work was not given much respect until years after his death. You'd think having a brother who was a professional art dealer would do your career wonders, but though Theodore Van Gogh was a loving and ardent supporter, both emotionally and financially, of his elder brother, he never bagged any buyers for his pieces. In his lifetime, Van Gogh only saw one of his works bought, a 1888 painting called The Red Vineyard Near Aries, which went for 400 francs or about two grand in today's money. Nowadays, his works sell for millions, with The Portrait Of Dr. Gachet going for $83 million back in 1990. His most famous masterpiece, Starry Night, may be insured for over $100 million, but many in the art world and public alike argue that the work is indeed priceless.  

Starry Night. (Museum of Modern Art/Wikimedia Commons)

Yes, He Did Cut Off His Ear

But certainly not all of it. There are many, many different versions of exactly what went down between Van Gogh and his ill-fated earlobe on that winter day in 1888, but the most likely story is that after a fight with fellow painter Paul Gaugin, Van Gogh suffered some kind of breakdown that led him to slice off the lower portion of his ear with a razor blade. He then famously offered the hunk of flesh to a worker at a local brothel, though who exactly this woman was has never been confirmed by historians despite ample speculation and research. What is known, though, is that this breakdown eventually led to his year-long stay at the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence asylum where he created many of his most celebrated works.

Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, easel and Japanese print, January 1889. (Courtauld Institute of Art/Wikimedia Commons)

He Had A Short But Prolific Career

For as much as he has impacted the world of art, it may seem that Van Gogh was fated to became a painter, but in fact, it was not his original choice of career. He set out to be a preacher and worked as one despite not having a formal education in theology for many years in Belgium, but when he was 27, he threw in the towel and turned to art instead. Though he had no training and little experience, he quickly became obsessed with painting, creating over 900 works in the span of only 10 years. He drew inspiration from his immediate surroundings, often painting countrysides or town life, but also from far overseas, with Japanese wood carvings greatly influencing his style and approach to art.

He Was The Epitome Of The Tortured Artist

Unfortunately, neither the asylums nor his brother could help Van Gogh overcome the mental illness that plagued him throughout his life. While it's impossible to diagnose someone from the past, modern mental health professionals have identified patterns of his documented behavior that correlate with bipolar disorder, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and substance abuse disorder. Basically, the guy was going through a lot, and he certainly seemed to have greater needs than the mental health professionals of the 19th century could meet. On July 27, 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest and died two days later with his brother at his side. He was buried in Auvers-sur-Oise.