Vincent van Gogh: 1853-1890

The-Starry-Night-Vincent-van-Gogh-1889Born on March 30, 1853 in Zundert, Brabant, in the south of the Netherlands, Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Post Impressionist painter and  one of history’s most famous artists. An active artist for only ten years, Van Gogh produced approximately 1000 watercolours, drawings and sketches and about 1250 paintings.

At age 16, Van Gogh worked as an apprentice for the art dealer Goupil & Cie in Hague at a gallery run by his uncle.  Between 1873 and 1876, Van Gogh moved between the London and Paris branches of Goupil. During this time,  he learned a great deal about Old Master and contemporary painting.  While in England he began collecting illustrations. In 1876, Van Gogh was dismissed from his position, at which point, he decided to become a minister.

In 1877, Van Gogh moved to Amsterdam where he attempted to enroll in theology school.  After giving up his preparatory studies, Van Gogh moved to the coal mining town Borinage in Belgium where he worked as a lay preacher. Living like a pauper among the miners, Van Gogh slept on the floor and gave away his belongings. His obsessive commitment was frowned upon by the church and he was dismissed.

In 1880, Van Gogh decided finally that he would become an artist. He moved to Brussels  and studied independently,  and occasionally with  Dutch artist Anthon van Rappard. Van Gogh’s brother Theo, who worked at Goupil’s Paris branch, sent him money during this time and would continue to support him regularly until the end of Van Gogh’s life. Van Gogh also studied briefly in The Hague with Anton Mauve, where he  was introduced to watercolour and oil technique, and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp in 1886, but withdrew after two months.

Van Gogh moved to Paris in 1886 where he lived with his brother Theo in the artists’ quarter of Montmartre. As a manager at the Montmartre branch of Goupil’s, Theo introduced Van Gogh to the works of Claude Monet and other Impressionists. Van Gogh studied for four months at the studio of Fernand Cormon where he met other artists including Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Emile Bernard, and Camille Pissarro.

Van Gogh began painting in brighter colours and his brushwork became more broken. Like the Impressionists, he chose his subjects from the city’s cafés and streets, as well as the countryside along the Seine River. During this time, Van Gogh dreamed of creating an artistic community in which they lived and worked together in harmony.

In February 1888, Van Gogh left Paris and traveled to Provence in the south of France.  Still hoping to establish his artists’ cooperative, Van Gogh rented a studio (The Yellow House) in Arles and invited Gauguin to join him. Gauguin finally agreed and from October 1888 spent nine weeks working and discussing art with Van Gogh. However, tension began to grow between the two artists. In December, an argument occurred resulting with the infamous “cutting off his own ear” story.

There are two schools of thought about how Vincent van Gogh lost part of his left ear on December 23, 1888. Some believe that Paul Gauguin cut off van Gogh’s ear in self-defense during a quarrel.  Others think that he slashed his own left ear lobe after learning that his  brother, Theo, was getting married. Whether the wound was self-inflicted or not, there is no doubt that Van Gogh, bleeding from his wound,  staggered into a bordello and gave a prostitute friend named Rachel his severed ear, telling her to ‘keep this object carefully’.

Gauguin left Arles, and Van Gogh, while being treated for his ear in the hospital, experienced  the first serious onset of insanity. After Van Gogh was discharged from the hospital, he was unable to set up a new studio or organize his life.  In May 1889, he admitted himself into a psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy, near Arles. Van Gogh continued to paint and converted a cell into a studio where he produced 150 paintings over the course of one year. Van Gogh sent his paintings to Theo in Paris. During this time and despite his illness, Van Gogh continued to produce one masterpiece after another including Irises, Cypresses, and The Starry Night.

Van Gogh’s work began to receive some recognition. In 1890, the Belgian artist group Les Vingt included six of his paintings in their exhibition. As well, the critic Albert Aurier published a favorable review of Van Gogh’s paintings in January 1890, linking his work to the Symbolists. It was at this time that he sold his painting the Red Vineyard to the painter Anna Boch. It was the only painting he would ever sell.

In 1890, Van Gogh left the hospital and moved Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. While there, he placed himself under the care of the homeopathic physician Paul Gachet. Gachet had previously treated several artists and was an amateur artist himself. Van Gogh became prolific in his work producing nearly one painting a day for two months.

In June, 1890, Van Gogh visited Theo, who expressed his desire to go into business for himself which would mean a tightening of finances, including his support of his brother. Van Gogh was deeply troubled by Theo’s dissatisfaction and became very worried: “…but my life too is threatened at its very root, and my step is unsteady too.”

On 27 July 1890, Vincent Van Gogh walked into a wheat field and shot himself in the chest. He died two days later, on July 29.  “He was buried in Auvers the next day. Among the mourners were Lucien Pissarro, Emile Bernard and Père Tanguy. Bernard later described Van Gogh’s coffin, covered with yellow flowers, and his easel and brushes lying on the ground next to the casket. Van Gogh’s paintings were left to Theo who died six months later.”

In 1914 the two brothers were re-interred next to each other at the cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise.

“Part of van Gogh’s fame is based on his extraordinary personal letters, the most numerous of which were to Theo. From France he also wrote a series of letters to his sister Wilhelmina, in which he regularly included explanations of artistic concepts that he considered superfluous in his letters to Theo. In addition, two other sets of letters have been preserved: those to Anthon van Rappard from 1881 to 1885, and those to Emile Bernard. He also corresponded and exchanged paintings with Gauguin. The abundance of biographical data and the diary-like character of the letters were important contributory factors in the making of van Gogh’s reputation. Due to the existence of the letters, many of the works are provided with the interpretation and commentary of van Gogh himself, to a far greater extent than with his predecessors and contemporaries.” (from MoMA)

Related Books:
Vincent’s Colors

Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh: Between Earth and Heaven

Sources: Van Gogh Musem, MoMA

Hendrik Kerstens: Photography

“Since 1995, Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens has been photographing his daughter, Paula. His photographs have been collected by museums around the world and have inspired taste-makers as diverse as Elton John and Alexander McQueen.”

“Kerstens uses his daughter as his model, immortalizing her, picturing her in relation to events in her own life as well as projecting onto her his fascination with the Dutch Master painters of the seventeenth century. Conceptually, Kerstens’ photographs play with the dialog between the mediums of painting and photography, with seriality, and time. On a more emotional level, they address everyday reality while expressing his love for his child, and the knowledge and development of his craft. His ‘Paula Pictures’, one of which won the PANL Award in 2001, are reminiscent of Vermeer’s painting. The austerity and clarity of the photographs, coupled with the serenity of the subject and the characteristic ‘dutch’ light all combine to create striking, beautiful and haunting works of art. However, Kerstens was not just imitating painting. As the series progressed, he became increasingly interested in the game of creating a conceptual and humorous dialog between past and present.” (from Nunc Contemporary)

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Jan Oliehoek: Photo Manipulation


A little weird, a little creepy, a little beautiful.  These are the photo manipulations of Jan Oliehoek. Based in Leiden, Netherlands, Oliehoek has a Masters degree in Biology, works as an IT specialist, for a biopharmaceutical company, and creates his surreal hybrids as a hobby.

“I try to create images that are both photorealistic and impossible at the same time. There are countless ways to accomplish this, and combining several animals into one hybrid is one of them. On top of that, I find that some animals just look amazing and beautiful. If on top of that they are then photographed by a really good photographer, I am already more than half way in creating a cool image without even having touched it yet.”

To see more of Oliehoek’s intriguing images, visit

Sources: The Design Inspiration

Chris Berens: Amsterdam @ Jaski Gallery

Poste-Restante-Chris-BerensThe latest work from Amsterdam artist Chris Berens (featured). In his new exhibition at Jaski Art Gallery entitled “Amsterdam”,  “Chris declares his love to his hometown. Again, he does this with beautiful, touching works, like always using the technique watercolor ink and graphite on paper on wood panel. The exhibition can be visited until Sunday, May 20. The opening takes place on Saturday, April 28, from 4 pm until 7 pm. Dutch TV personality Beau van Erven Dorens, a huge fan of Chris Berens, will deliver a speech between 5.30 en 6 pm.”

See more works from this exhibition at Learn more about his unique artistic process at

Eline Peek: Painting


Born in 1970 in Utrecht, Netherlands, Eline Peek studied advertising and presentation techniques at Nimeto, Utrecht and autonomous design at the School of the Arts, Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht.

“People seeing the paintings of the Utrecht artist Eline Peek (1970) for the first time tend to shuffle by in shock or embarrassment or to look away. Her big, all-revealing ‘portraits’ make you feel quite uneasy. The confrontational nudes are, in the first instance, not pleasing to the eye: decrepit, sagging bodies, hollow-eyed faces, droopy breasts, pendulous folds of skin, angular limbs, an unhealthy skin and genitalia prominently on show. Without any inhibitions they pose nude or in their underwear. All larger than life-sized and shamelessly facing the viewer, what’s more their eyes stare searchingly at you; they are actually looking for contact.” (Chris Will, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam)

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