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My name is Scott and I like to travel. There I said it, wow that does feel better. There is probably a program for my affliction somewhere. I am what I would consider a Normal Guy. I am a native Arizonan, sometimes we are called “Zonies”. I am in my mid 40′s and enjoy a great life. I am self employed and have a wonderful daughter and Partner. Although I would say my life is a fairly normal one, I am also quite lucky in that I have the ability to travel and enjoy the world, I enjoy learning about other cultures and experiencing the world around us. I want to be right upfront about the type of travel I enjoy and the type I don’t. You will probably not ever read a story of about me backpacking my way through the serengeti during the height of summer, nor will you probably read any stories of me sleeping in the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton in Paris. I am not a budget traveler, nor am I an uber luxury traveler, I fall somewhere in the middle, where most people fall I believe. I started this blog for the sole purpose of sharing my stories, my views and my excitement for traveling around this world with my friends, family. However it doesn’t stop there for me, I also wanted to make friends with others around the world, those who travel and those who dream of travel. Blogs and Websites evolve over time, mine will no doubt expand over time as well please come back and see what has taken place. However if you have come to my blog to schedule a flight or a hotel, this is not the place.

The Life & Times of Van Gogh

As you all know by now, I do love to go to Museums.  One that I was really looking forward to was the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  Few artists are as well known as Van Gogh.  Most people can see a Van Gogh from a distance and know that it is a Van Gogh.  Something about his technique, brush strokes and use of color and perspective that stands out.  But it didn’t always.  In fact Vincent Van Gogh struggled to be known during his time.  His short life only produced 10 years of work and ultimately ended in Suicide.

Vincent Van Gogh

1853-1890

Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous Dutch artists of all time.  He was only active as an artist for ten years, from 1880 until his death in 1890.  As a result of his enormous passion in  those ten years Van Gogh produced an impressive body of work.  About 800 paintings and more than 1000 drawings have been preserved, as well as a large number of watercolors, lithographs and sketches in letters.

Amsterdam is the home of the Vincent Van Gogh Museum opened in 1973, houses the majority of his paintings, drawings, sketches and letters are on display, in fact it is the Worlds largest collection of Van Gogh works.  The museum also contains works by his contemporaries such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin, Monet, Bernard and Monticelli.

Throughout his life, Van Gogh wrote hundreds of letters to his brother Theo, and to other family members and friends.  For him, these letters were an important means of communication and an outlet for his feelings.  Much of what we now know about Van Gogh’s life, his background and what he read, saw and thought, comes from his own Biography:  His Letters.

As a painter, he was largely self taught.  With the help of textbooks, a few lessons at the art academies of Brussels and Antwerp, visits to museums and advice from artist friends, he taught himself the craft.  His introduction to modern French art movements encouraged him to experiment.

As the years went by, he developed his own highly distinctive style of painting, using expressive brushstrokes and vivid colors.  This style has since inspired and influenced many subsequent generations of artists.  However Van Gogh’s success did not come easy or fast, he spent many years worried that he was not being taken seriously.  His art was not being purchased as he thought it should have been.  He viewed himself on the same level with his more contemporary peers, who were significantly more successful.

There is much made of the fact that he was extremely close to his brother Theo.  In fact some speculate that a number of his self portraits are actually paintings of his twin brother Theo and not himself. Van Gogh wrote a tremendous amount of letters, the majority of his letters are written to Theo, his love for his brother is what drove him to learn more, try new innovative painting techniques, in an effort to gain the success he believed he deserved.  His passion to be recognized as a leading artist in his time and the fact that he was not, drove him into an asylum.  Many of his most famous paintings were done during his time incarcerated.

Most people are well aware of some of the most famous paintings by Van Gogh, Sunflowers, Iris’s, Starry Night etc.,  but are you aware there are more than just one of them, for example there isn’t just one Sunflowers, there are a dozen or more.  Now they are different in brushstrokes, color, texture and composition, but Van Gogh would get stuck on a subject and pain it over and over again.  Presumably trying paint just the right picture.  Another interesting tidbit about Van Gogh, he went through an Asian Inspired period, painting numerous pictures of Peach Trees, Cherry Trees and Asian influenced scenes.

The Potato Eaters, Vincent Van Gogh

But the most profound paintings that I felt he painted were very traditional in style such as The Potato Eaters.  From a distance you  might think this painting was painted by one of the more famous painters from the Golden Age of Dutch Art, Vemeer or Rembrandt.  But when you get closer then you can really see the technique and distorted view that most people associate with a Van Gogh Painting.

After the personal failure of The Potato Eaters, Vincent decided he needed some professional training in art techniques.  He enrolled later that year in an academy in Antwerp where he discovered the art of Peter Paul Rubens, and various Japanese artists.  Both of these factors would greatly affect Van Gogh’s style in art.  By early 1886, he had moved to Paris to live with his brother Theo.  Here Vincent was immersed in a centrifuge of modern art from the Impressionist and post impressionists.  Van Gogh quickly dropped the dark colors he had used to create The Potato Eaters after discovering the palette to be horrendously out of date.  He adopted the brighter more vibrant colors with ease and began experimenting with the techniques he saw in the art of the impressionist and post impressionists.  He soon began to research the styles found in the Japanese artwork he had discovered a year earlier.

While in Paris, Vincent was acquainted with various other artists including, Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissaro, Claude MOney and Emile Bernard.  Vincent befriended Paul Gauguin and moved to Arles in 1888 hoping that his new friends would join him to create a school of art.  Vincent was confident in his new and highly personal style and felt that he could attribute it to Modern art with his outlandish new color combinations.

Later Paul Gauguin did join Van Gogh in Arles.  Vincent began painting sunflowers to decorate Gauguin’s bedroom.  These sunflowers would later become one of Vincent’s signature pieces.  Although something much greater was brewing in Vincent’s head, that he couldn’t control.

Towards the end of 1888, the first signs of Van Gogh’s mental illness began to take hold.  He suffered from various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions.  One such episode entailed Vincent pursuing Gauguin with a knife and threatening him intensely.  Later that day, Vincent returned to their house and mutilated his ear, then offered it to a prostitute as a gift.  Vincent was temporarily hospitalized and released to find Gauguin swiftly leaving Arles and his dream of an artistic community shattered.

As the year of 1888 came to an end, Vincent traveled to Saint Remy-de-Provence where he committed himself to an Asylum.  Here his paintings became a torrent of activity.  Although he could not draw and paint for long periods of time without suffering from an attack, he managed to create The Starry Night which resides as his most popular work and one of the most influenced pieces in history.  The swirling lines of the sky are a possible representation of his mental state.  This same shaken style is visible in all of his work during his time in the asylum.

Vincent left Saint Remy-de-provence in 1890 and began contacting his brother Theo.  Van Gogh continued working and created a number of pieces; nearly one painting a day.  Vincent viewed his life as horribly wasted, personally failed and impossible.   On July 27, 1890 Van Gogh attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest.  He survived, but died two days later from the wound.

From my perspective Van Gogh’s life was short lived because of his undeniable thirst for recognition by his friends, family and contemporaries, he was driven to suicide by the driving force of success.  Van Gogh today is more famous than even he could have anticipated.  After Van Gogh’s death, there was a great deal of interest in the artists work, and almost as much fascination with his dramatic life story:  his unhappy romances, his apparent lack of recognition, his illness and his suicide.

If you would like to look through the Van Gogh collection, click here.

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One Comment on “The Life & Times of Van Gogh”

  1. promotion of website June 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    That was some interesting stuff here on travelwithscott.com Thanks for posting it.

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