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Vincent Van Gogh, Troubled Genius

Susan is a great lover of art, especially post-impressionists. Van Gogh has always touched her deeply.

Life before art

Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zunder in Holland; he was one of six children. He was closest to his brother Theo who was four years younger.

Before he took on painting full time, Vincent held several jobs. He began working for an art dealership run by his uncle Vincent at the age of 15; he was fired at 21 for his poor attitude in dealing with customers. Other jobs he held were supply teacher, minister's assistant and bookshop clerk.

A career

In 1880, at the urging of his brother Theo, he turned to art full time. He attended the Royal Academy of Art in Brussels where he studied under Willem Roelofs. After taking art courses Vincent began painting in earnest. Theo supported Vincent financially for the rest of his life.

Throughout his life, Van Gogh suffered from mental problems that may or may not have been medical in origin. In 1888, he cut off his left ear lobe and supposedly gave it to a prostitute. He was hospitalized after that event.

Death and legacy

Vincent Van Gogh died on July 29th, 1890, two days after shooting himself in the chest.

Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive but now his paintings are amongst the highest-priced works of art. His Irises sold for $102.3 million in 1987 and Sunflowers sold for $75.4 million the same year. His art is housed in art galleries all over the world and in a poll I looked at recently, Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci were tied for favorite artist.

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) by Don McLean

The song Vincent by Don McLean is one of the most beautiful and haunting songs that I have ever heard. I listened to it so much when it was released in 1972 that I still have the words memorized. I am sure it contributed to my long standing appreciation of Vincent Van Gogh's art works.

Excerpt from Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will.

Reprinted from

Starry Night Over the Rhone 1888


The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night 1888


Sunflowers 1888


Starry Night 1889


Continuing legacy

Vincent Van Gogh remains one of the most popular artists of the 20th century. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam features a great many of his works as well as several interactive installations. Worldwide, the immersive Van Gogh exhibit continues to astonish people and bring new fans to the work of Van Gogh.

In the immersive exhibit, you can walk or drive through masterpieces like Starry Night and The Bedroom. It takes up over 600,000 cubic feet and has taken place in such cities as Toronto and New York City.

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In popular culture, Van Gogh has been featured in films and television shows. In 2010, an episode of Doctor Who, "Vincent and the Doctor", showcased a week in his life and art; along with a monster of the week appearance. The most touching part is when Doctor Who, played by Matt Smith, and his companion Amy (Karen Gillian) take Vincent to visit a retrospective of his work at the Musee D'Orsay. The Doctor gets the exhibit guide, played by Bill Nighy, to explain what is so great about Van Gogh while Vincent is listening. They hoped this would stop him from killing himself but history played out as it happened. This episode was written by Richard Curtis.

Loving Vincent

In 2017, the film "Loving Vincent" was released and was an instant success. The film is a "fully painted feature film" that is based on several of Van Gogh's works. It tells the story of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise. It features 65,000 oil-painted frames which make characters and landscapes come to life.

The future

There is no saying how much further the legacy of Van Gogh can spread, time will tell us. There will surely be more books written about his life and his art and he will no doubt show up on film. Van Gogh earns new fans every day and that is not likely to change any time soon.


Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on September 18, 2014:

I love his work. So rich in color and dimension.

femi from Nigeria on January 10, 2014:


Peggy Salvatore from Mid-Atlantic States US on March 11, 2013:

Just bought a bracelet with Starry Night, one of my favorite paintings. Used to have it hanging in my apartment when I was in my 20s, and spent many hours in NYC art museums fascinated by Van Gogh, Picasso (esp his portrait of Gertrude Stein and his studies for Guernica). For those who haven't, consider visiting the Barnes if you find yourself in Philadelphia. Again, thank you for these great posts.

Brenda Lorraine Scully from Ireland on March 10, 2013:

How sad he only sold one painting whilst alive. I love his work, and i really enjoyed this hub.........

Susan Britton from Ontario, Canada on November 21, 2012:

Hi Univited Writer . This is an awesome hub and I can't believe I have this painting The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night 1888 in my Frame that I made out of aluminum cans. Check it out- it is on my hub page for real . I found it in a dumpster with another restaurant sign. I never even knew what this painting was called. I am sure it is a print because someone glued it to a piece of plywood and I fastened it to the back of my tin can frame. Just imagine, I have a Vincent Van Gogh paining on my wall and never knew it. WOW!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 05, 2012:

He happens to be my favorite artist so this hub was a natural for me. Great job, wonderful research and the video was topnotch.

Susan Keeping (author) from Kitchener, Ontario on February 16, 2012:

StAlKeRs! on February 15, 2012:

anywho. i'm doing a project on starry night so if you could like give me info. on that????? thx.

rmcrayne from San Antonio Texas on January 29, 2012:

I too love the song Vincent. I also love the episode about Van Gogh on Dr. Who. Wouldn’t that have been great if he could have seen a glimpse into the future, and known how much his vision was appreciated. I was fortunate to see his work among the other impressionists at the National Gallery in D.C. in the late 90s.

Shasta Matova from USA on January 29, 2012:

Uninvited Writer, I've included this hub in my list of weekly favorites. Congrats!

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on January 27, 2012:

great hub. I've always loved Starry Night!

Audrey Howitt from California on January 20, 2012:

I have always loved his work--but yes, deeply troubled--

Shasta Matova from USA on January 20, 2012:

This is a great hub. It is a great moving song, and the videos are great so we can see his paintings again.

tebo from New Zealand on June 09, 2011:

I very much enjoyed this hub and being able to sing the words of Vincent correctly was nice too. Love that song.

Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on March 18, 2011:

Absolutely LOVED this hub. I too was overwhelmed by ´Starry, starry night´ in 1972. Thanks for printing the words out. , and for putting up so many of Van Goghs´paintings. To think he never sold ONE in his life is quite sad , . Thank you again for a great hub

Apepperson from Texas on July 08, 2010:

Wow! What an excellent story. Thanks for sharing. I love his work and learning every little detail about his life that I can.

PDGreenwell from Kentucky on May 26, 2010:

Wonderful hub! My appreciation for his work was enriched when I had the opportunity to see some in person. The actual laying on of the paint is a sight to behold. His work is so dynamic, alive!

Susan Keeping (author) from Kitchener, Ontario on December 17, 2009:

Unfortunately, I haven't been to Amsterdam at all. I really would like to visit one day.

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on December 17, 2009:

Have you had a chance to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam? There are lots of his early studies there, where he's experimenting with restricted palettes and other techniques that were to become his stock in trade. Vincent was also one of the first songs I learned on guitar, lotsa years ago!

Susan Keeping (author) from Kitchener, Ontario on August 29, 2009:

Thanks for dropping by IslandVoice. He was definitely one of the best.

Sylvia Van Velzer from Hawaii on August 28, 2009:

I am a great fan of Van Gogh. I'm glad there are hubbers who are art lovers. Thanks for writing about one of the worlds best and most brilliant artists. The song Vincent is also one of my favorite songs. I can keep singing it.

Susan Keeping (author) from Kitchener, Ontario on August 23, 2009:

Sorry you aren't a fan William. That's okay though, you can still visit :)

Kym, I have a copy of Irisis on my kitchen wall. Starry night will always be my favorite.

Kym on July 13, 2009:

Vincent Van Gogh, a definite favorite. I have always loved his use of color and as a post impressionist, he I believe was one of the best. Of his almost 900 paintings I think the Irisis will always be my favorite!

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on May 29, 2009:

I enjoyed this hub very much, Uninvited Writer. The paintings are interesting and the videos are superb. I am not, however, a great fan of art. I took an art appreciation course at UConn -- passed the course but failed to gain an appreciation for art. In fact I spent all of 10 minutes in the Louvre Museum in Paris, but left because I had other things to do. I guess I'm a lost cause when it comes to art.

Susan Keeping (author) from Kitchener, Ontario on May 12, 2009:

Yes, I heard that story during my research. I didn't mention it because it isn't really proven and only mentioned in one book :)

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on May 12, 2009:

Have you seen the news that there is a new book out saying that it was Gauguin who really cut of Van Gogh's ear in a fight outside a brothel and the story was concocted to protect Gauguin's reputation?

MagicStarER from Western Kentucky on May 09, 2009:

Very interesting article - the life of Van Gogh is the story of a man who lived a very difficult life, what with poverty and mental problems. Fortunately, his brother, who loved him, believed in him, and supported him, so we could enjoy his paintings!

frogyfish from Central United States of America on May 08, 2009:

Great reading. You make it seem that his problems made the world so beautiful for the rest of us...and you're right. Thanks! Really enjoyed listening to Starry Night song too!

tdarby on May 08, 2009:

I have to admit, I am grateful he was so troubled. I think it brought beauty to his painting. For me, Van Gogh stands as one of the most emotional, beautiful artists ever.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 08, 2009:

Uninvited, I actually saw Starry Night for real in person and WOW. There is nothing like seeing a familiar painting in person. Seeing a print, you think it's so beautiful but for real is a whole different ball game.

For instance, I always wondered why the big noise about Jackson Pollack until I saw one of his paintings in person at the Corcoran and was floored.

Iphigenia on May 08, 2009:

Lovely hub - van gogh spent a couple of years in Provence where I live (he was at Arles then St Rémy) and the light and colours that he captured were among the things that drew to to first visit Provence years ago ... and now it's home !

lscollison on May 07, 2009:

This brought tears to my eyes. I love Vincent Van Gogh, and have just returned from an all-too-brief art tour of Holland and Belgium, so I'm still swooning. And then I find this! Many thanks.

franciaonline from Philippines on May 07, 2009:


I love Van Gogh's "Starry Starry Night" and Don McLean's "Vincent". Thanks for this beautiful hub!

Susan Keeping (author) from Kitchener, Ontario on May 07, 2009:

Thanks. Starry Night is definitely my favorite Van Gogh painting.

Am I dead, yet? on May 06, 2009:

Awesome and amazing subject/content matter in this hub! I absolutely love V. Van Gogh's artwork! Thanks for adding some of his artwork here. 'a starry night' & 'Starry Night Over the Rhone' are two of my most favorite of his! I just dig the blue and the accents within the paintings, and looking ever so closely at the human images in the artwork, and trying to find something I might have missed before.  I can look at these for an eternity!

Susan Keeping (author) from Kitchener, Ontario on May 06, 2009:

Thanks for the comments. I enjoyed looking at all the videos of Van Gogh on You Tube.

You are probably right, Rochelle. I'm quite sure his paintings would have changed too if he had been a success while he lived.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on May 06, 2009:

The world is thankful for Theo. Too bad Vincent never got the recognition he deserved during his lifetime, but he certainly had a unique talent and a genius that is appreciated even more today.

Maybe if he had achieved financial and popular success in his time, his work would have lacked the emotional appeal that it projects.

Seems rather ironic that his work is so familiar and valued now.

Nice job.

B. Panciera from Earth...Too much of the time! on May 06, 2009:

****GREAT HUB! I LOVE the youtube clips!

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