Born in the Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh tried many occupations before he decided to become an artist at the age of 27. He worked in several family-owned art galleries located in different cities, so he was familiar with many artists and their styles. He settled in Brussels, taking art lessons and practicing drawing. He created paintings and drawings of the peasants and landscapes around him. In 1885, his younger brother, Theo, was living in Paris and told Vincent about the Impressionist’s use of lighter, brighter colors. He began to study color and moved to Paris to see how Impressionists used color. He saw Japanese prints and silk paintings and became interested in Japanese techniques.
Soon, his paintings evolved with his use of broad, swirling strokes of paint and bold, vivid colors. His unique style is still admired, copied, and sought after today. In 1888, with the thought of creating an artist community, he moved to Arles, France. He invited the artist Paul Gauguin to join him, but the roommates fought constantly. After one argument, van Gogh cut off the lobe of one of his own ears. There are many stories surrounding this incident, from van Gogh’s anger that Gauguin had dated one of his girlfriends to a history of self-mutilation. Recently, there is a theory that he may have had epilepsy, a kind that causes tremendous headaches and deafening ringing in the ears.
While at Arles, van Gogh painted his bedroom, Artist’s Room at Arles. Forms are simplified, and colors are bright. You can see dark outlines, an influence from Japanese artwork. Each line created by the brushstroke is visible. He contrasted cool colors (blue and green) against warm colors (yellow and orange). The lines in the floor and on the sides of furniture lead to a vanishing point.
Vincent ended up in a mental hospital. When he was thinking clearly, he would continue his painting. During the last four years of his life, van Gogh created a tremendous number of paintings and drawings. His use of line, dots, and dashes became more swirling, and colors became more vivid. Skies did not have to be blue and trees green. He created landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. While under the care of Dr. Gachet, a subject for one of his portrait paintings, van Gogh shot himself and died two days later, his brother Theo by his side.