Biography of Vincent Van Gogh – Part 2


Beginnings as an artist !

Women head with a green nose cap. 1885

Women head with a green nose cap. 1885

In this beginnings as a Realism follower, his use of the colour was very different. Dark earthy colours, greys and browns, all used to expressed the sad and dark times of the lives of the poor people around him.

Van Gogh decided to look for a greater expressivity for his simple world of motifs: the compassion and the denunciation were the subject of their drawings of men and women, represented in their daily tasks or resting sinking in melancholy.

Not everything is black and white in Vincent’s first drawings, we can see how colour is appearing little by little. Before, in La Haya he developed massively his drawings and art of expression. There he painted many pictures and drawings of Sien and the children. We think that for Vincent his time with Sien was very happy, but under the constant pressure of family and friends he decided to leave. Living with Sien he felt at home.

Angelus, reproduction of an original painting of Jean-Françoise Millet. 1880. Drawing in colours pencils. Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo.

Once he is back to Nuenen, his parents decided to support him in his wish to become an artist and help him economically to open a shop in the same town, where he could continue his learning proccess of drawing and started in the use of oil paints.

His production of drawings while he was living in Nuenen was amazing. (Click here for selection of drawings of Nuenen period)

Van Gogh started to paint dead nature pictures after the priest of the village forbid the habitants to pose for the paintings. Until then, the portraits were done only for the aristocratic and rich people dressed in their best outfits. That is what Vincent Van Gogh innovated, painting the people naturally and with no adornments. The artist paid the models and chose them according to fiscal criteria.

His time in Amberes

After the death of the father Theodorus and the break up with his family, Vincent was thrown out of his little study in Nuenen. There were rumours of a bastard son, so the whole situation was unbearable.

After that, in 1885, Vincent traveled to Amberes where he stayed until February 1886. He started university to acquire the artistic formation he wanted. He visited museum where he got to know the work of many barrocan artists, but the one who impressed him the most was Rubens. He was amazed by the way Rubens tried to express and represent everything through a reality, in an atmosphere of joy, serenity and pain, through the combination of colour.

Vincent was happy to live in the city, he found new energy, new ideas, he was learning and evolving his own style. But, there he was forced to copy classic models and follow the traditional recipe to compose a picture.
But soon, he was in need of developing his own mind and his own personality. He wanted to express himself through painting and copying classic models and following strict rules wasn’t helping in that matter.

Letters to his brother, Theo Van Gogh

Photograph of Theo Van Gogh around 1889

Photograph of Theo Van Gogh around 1889

Vincent Van Gogh wrote an incredible amount of letters to his beloved brother Theo. More than 600. Is through this letters that we can recreate a biography closer to the artist.
Many times in those letters, he would draw an sketch of what he was planning to paint.
The honesty and the amount of letters that Vincent wrote every day, specially to his brother Theo, give us a great vision of his life. Is like a diary he was writing everyday, where he was expressing his ambitions, his frustations, his emotions and his plans for the future.

He sent a lot of letters aswell to his friends Paul Gaugin, Paul Signac or Emile Bernard. He also wrote a lot to his sister Willemina, but the one who he would write everyday was his brother Theo.

Theo went to visit Vicent in La Haya when he was only 15. It was there when their relationship got closer. After a while, Theo follows some of his brother’s steps, like going to Paris to be an art dealer at the Goupil company, like Vincent did previously. When Vincent decided to paint, Theo decided to suported him economically, paying for the art supplies, while then Vincent would give him the paintings for him to sell as a pay back. Vincent felt that giving back his paintings to his brother, he paid what he owed.

After having to convince his brother a lot, he goes to Paris to live with him and gets some money from Theo for living expenses. Theo had to sell his paintings to get money back. Often Vincent complained that Theo did not try hard enough to sell his paintings, so he lived in complete poverty with very low self-confidence. It is possible that his brother Theo did not have faith in the artistic capacities of his brother. Many people would say that after Vincent died, Theo felt so guilty that did not survive more that six month after the death of his brother.

Unexpected arrived to Paris

In March 1886 Vincent arrived unexpected in Paris, in the house of his brother Theo. Foe a few month Vincent was convincing his brother that it was a good idea for him to go to Paris, but Theo did not like the idea. Even so, Vincent decided that going to Paris was the best move for him and went to the city of art.

In Paris, he lived with his brother and his wife for a few months, until Theo rented an apartment in Rue Lepic number 54, where Vincent installed himself and his paint study. From that apartment he had a nice view of the city he painted in a few occassions.

View from Vincent’s appartment at Le Rue Lepic in Montmatre, Paris.

Vincentmet many important artists, like Toulouse-Latrec, his good friend Paul Gaugin and other impressionist of the time in a shop in the Rue Lepic where Père Tanguy used to sell art supplies to all these young artist. He was like a father for all of them that’s why they called him Père (father in french). In the back room of the shop of Tanguy he had a small gallery where he exposed paintings and tryed to sell them in order to help the painters.

The city gave new inspiration to paint to the artist, different landscapes from the countryside in Nuenen.

Avenue of the Gardens of Luxembourg

Avenue of the Gardens of Luxembourg

Vincent assisted during 4 months to the Fernand Cormon Art School, where he had live models to paint and also plaster models. In Paris Vincent Van Gogh participated in the exchange of pictures, something very fashionable at the time between artists even from other countries.
Is in his stay in Paris when Vincent met with the Impresionism. The preservative art critics spoke contemptuously of this group of innovating artists. The colours and the forms had to be painted as they were seen and not clarified by the intellect, as they had being taught .

Vincent Van Gogh crossed the city of Paris in search of unusual landscapes to paint, which took him to the outskirts of the city in order to paint avenues full of precious gardens, mills,industrial zones, meadows, fields…

Often he would go to small markets to buy his own personal stuff and flowers and other items for his dead nature pictures, like the pair of boots or sunflowers with vase..

In 1887 in a letter to his sister Willemina Vincent declared his wish to travel to the south of France for new inspiration and different landscapes to paint.

In Paris, Vincent gets very close to Toulouse-Latrec and Paul Gaugin, specially the last one. Which friendship influenced him personally and professionally very much.

Vincent went towards the south of France, doing a stop in Arles, town that fascinated him by the vibrant color blue of the sky.

Read Part 1 | Read Part 3

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