Although he is known as one of the greatest painters of all time, Vincent van Gogh perceived himself as a failure throughout his life, which he himself would later cut short. He is known as a tortured artist as he went through many setbacks in his love life and career. Although these difficult experiences brought a heavy burden, they proved to be influential for his works of art. Van Gogh had not originally envisioned himself to be an artist; however, he was destined to leave a legacy far from what he could have ever imagined.
Vincent van Gogh was born in Groot-Zundert, Holland in 1853 to a very religious family (“Vincent Van Gogh Gallery”). At a young age, he was asked to stop his education in order to help provide for their poor family. He worked as an art dealer in England and France for his uncles’ company from which he learned to appreciate works of art (“Vincent Van Gogh Gallery”). During this time, Van Gogh would also teach himself how to draw and occasionally visit art galleries. He was mesmerized by the culture and works he saw in England, where he also met a lady whom he fell deeply in love with.
He proposed to marry the daughter of his landlord, but was rejected (“Biography Vincent Van Gogh”). This was the beginning of what seemed to be his ownfall as he continuously faced roadblocks and uncertainties. Van Gogh decided to take the path of his father by studying theology to become a Protestant minister (“Biography Vincent Van Gogh”). He continued his education for a year, but was sent to be a minister at a coal mine as punishment after he refused to take a Latin exam as he believed that it was useless, especially to the poor parishioners to whom he would preach.
Van Gogh made the most out of his experience as he saw it as an opportunity to help the miners and their families obtain a close relationship with God. The ministers who sent Van Gogh to his punishment were not pleased by his acts of martyrdom, and asked him to leave; thus, Van Gogh had to find another job. During his stay in the mine fields, Van Gogh realized that he wanted to do something that would leave a lasting impression. He was influenced by his brother Theo, to move to Brussels in order to become an artist.
Van Gogh continued to doubt himself as he had almost no formal training, but he continued to receive undying support from his family. He continued to teach himself by studying books from which he learned about shading, perspective, and anatomy. At age 27 in 1880, he admitted imself into the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium. His works during this time were greatly influenced by Anton Mauve and Jean Franqios Millet. Van Gogh fell in love for another time with his widowed cousin during his stay in Brussels, and his disappointment once more led him to move back to his parents’ home.
Another woman, Hoornik, played a role in his life. She was an alcoholic prostitute who became Van Gogh’s mistress and model(“Vincent Van Gogh”). Van Gogh thought that they could be together for the rest of their lives, but to his disappointment, she went back to prostitution and he Van Goghs’ urged Vincent to separate himself from her. Despite the disappointment in his love life, Van Gogh pursued his career as an artist as he painted his very first work in 1885 after gaining his education(“Vincent Van Gogh”).
He named his work the The Potato Eaters, in which he depicted the famine and poor living conditions of the peasants. He painted this work after many hours of practice with weathered hands and human heads as he set a goal for himself to gain respect throughout the art community. Although his work proved to be very successful today, it did not gain much popularity at the time, as mpressionism was most popular. During this period, bright and vivid colors on the paintings were widely appreciated which was the opposite of the dark and eerie painting of Van Gogh.
He continued to seek professional training by visiting an art academy in Antwerp where he saw Japanese Art and gained knowledge from the works of Peter Paul Rubins. In 1886 he moved to Paris with Theo, where he learned more about the impressionists style of art and decided to lighten up the colors used for his paintings. He met with several artists such as Toulouse and Bernard, as well as Gauguin with whom he grew o have a closer working relations. Van Gogh sought to create a little colony for artists like him, and did so in Arles, France where he urged Gauguin to stay with him(“Vincent Van Gogh”).
This was the time when Van Gogh was able to finish much of his works such as Sunflowers. However, during their few months stay at Arles, Gauguin and Van Gogh began to disagree with each other’s styles and techniques. It was at this time when Van Gogh experienced much stress which triggered many symptoms of his mental illness. In 1888, signs of delusions and psychotic attacks stuck Van Gogh, as he threatened to kill Gauguin with a azor. Van Gogh used the same razor to mutilate his ear before he was admitted to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole hospital in Saint- Remy where he stayed in an asylum.
In 1890, after he was discharged from the hospital, Van Gogh attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself on the chest. He died two days later from his wound. During his stay in the asylum in Saint-Paul, Van Gogh painted The Starry Night based on his knowledge and observations from his past and present. During his stay, he was encouraged to paint by the doctors, as this had a calming effect on his condition, Van Gogh used paint to create his work based n his observations from outside of the asylum window.
He wrote to his brother, “this morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big” (Paulson). He combined his current observations with his past thoughts of astronomy and the night skies, as influenced by Gauguin who had taught him how to paint through the use of his memory. Van Gogh expressed that he sees the night to be “more richly colored than the day, colored with the most intense violets, blues and greens. If you look carefully, you’ll see that some stars are lemony, thers have a pink, green, forget-me-not blue glow (Paulson).
Although The Starry Night may not have been appreciated immediately after it was painted by Van Gogh, it truly had a lasting impact with the art that followed after it had become popular because of its post-impressionist and other unique elements which may be easily appreciated by the audience. The painting has a simple effect that draws in the audience with Van Gogh’s use of depth, direction, and rhythm as he creates swirls with the stroke of his paint brush. He exemplifies light from the stars and the sky in a way that had not been really thought of during his time.
He creates contrast with an asymmetrical balance with the dark figure on the left and bright moon on the right. The same is achieved with the brighter upper sky, and the darker buildings under. The entire painting is united by the texture created by Van Gogh with the short lines and strokes of his paint brush. The painting may also be a symbol of heaven and earth as with his religious background and current situation when it was painted as the houses represent the earth and the lighter sky above may represent heaven. It’s evident that his years of life experience and training has greatly influenced his famous work of art.