Last Reviewed and Updated on July 8, 2022
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most iconic artists of all time, his paintings have influenced generations of artists to come. He is well-known for his beautiful yet tumultuous brushstrokes. His life was also wrought with turmoil, as he struggled with mental illness. The following are some of the most interesting facts about Vincent van Gogh that you might not yet know.
1. He was given the same name as his deceased older brother
Vincent Van Gogh was named after his grandfather. But the name was originally meant for his older brother, a boy who was born a year before Vincent was and died.
2. Van Gogh is considered self-taught
He showed an interest in drawing from a young age and his mother would encourage him to draw.
Van Gogh was not really formally trained as an artist in his early years.
He did study anatomy and the standard rules of modeling and perspective at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts for a while, despite his dislike for formal education.
He would attend art (Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp) school later in life, closer to his death, again.
3. His works gained true fame after his death
It is hard to imagine one of the most famous and influential artists in Western art history was pretty much neglected during his lifetime. People started noticing his work shortly before he would die, but his works only achieved true fame years after his death.
After his death, his brother Theo was advocating for his works, but he died shortly after Vincent. Theo’s widow Johanna van Gogh-Bogner became the advocate for his works. His fame rose after a series of his paintings were displayed at a show in Paris in 1901.
4. For a while, he was a lay preacher
Before he took up painting, as a young man Van Gogh was working as an art dealer, traveled a lot, and was even happy.
After some time and a series of little events, he started to seriously struggle with depression. He sought comfort in religion and had a desire to become a pastor. Van Gogh had little luck with formal education as he failed the theology entrance exams and failed a three-month course at a Protestant missionary school. He did take up a post as a missionary / lay preacher, a post that required no formal training) at Petit-Was es in Belgium.
5. Van Gogh’s health wasn’t the best
He suffered from depression, psychotic episodes, and delusions. Van Gogh worked on his mental health but wasn’t able to work on his physical health – his diet was poor and he was a heavy drinker and a smoker. He might have also had syphilis later in life.
6. In his adult life he didn’t really earn money but wasn’t exactly poor
Van Gogh was born into a middle-class family. In the early days, when he was working as an art dealer, his financial state was rather good.
But with his life choices, health issues, and the lack of commercial success with his art, his career as a painter wasn’t a blooming one. His art didn’t really sell and art supplies were expensive and so were Vincent Van Gogh’s habits.
7. His younger brother Theo provided for Vincent Van Gogh
His younger brother Theo, who was also his closest friend, provided finances as well as emotional support for his brother Vincent. The money he provided to his brother was more than many workers received at that time.
8. He sold quite a few paintings during his lifetime – but not for much
The exact numbers of paintings sold during his lifetime aren’t known. There are a few recorded sales, however, there were also many times when he would trade his works for art supplies or food, and those would count as sales as well.
9. He cut off his ear (or a part of it)
This has always been one of the most interesting facts about Vincent Van Gogh. It is not known if he cut off the whole ear or just a small chunk, but the injury did happen. The events that led to this injury aren’t pretty straightforward either.
There was an altercation (Theo, Vincent, and Gauguin), and later when Van Gogh returned to his room he seemingly heard voices and cut his ear. He proceeded by wrapping the ear in paper and delivering it to a woman in a brothel that he and Gauguin frequented.
Van Gogh had no recollection of the event.
10. He painted Starry Nights in an asylum
He was in and out of asylums for quite some time before. In 1889 he entered the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum where he was assigned two rooms, one to use as his studio.
He made many paintings with the clinic and its gardens being the main subject.
One of the paintings that he painted during this stay is The Starry Nights, one of the most famous works of art in history.
11. During his short life he made over 2000 works of art
He made over 900 paintings and many other works of art as he dabbled with other media too (sketches and drawings mostly). That is an impressive number!
12. He committed suicide at the age of 37
Last in this list of facts about Vincent Van Gogh isn’t a fun one. It is believed he shoot himself in the chest to commit suicide. As there were no witnesses we can’t know this for sure.
According to his brother, Van Gogh’s last words were “The sadness will last forever”. Mental health is important.