10 facts you should know about Vincent van Gogh

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10 facts (and a video) on the prolific genius who died a relatively unknown artist.

1. Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands. He was named after his grandfather and his stillborn brother who died one year before Van Gogh was born.

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2. Van Gogh was 27 years old when he painted his first piece.

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3. When Van Gogh first began painting, he used peasants as models. He would later paint flowers, landscapes and himself, mostly because he was too poor to pay the models.

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4. Van Gogh suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures.

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5. During one of his seizures, Van Gogh attempted to attack his friend Paul Gauguin with an open razor. This ultimately resulted in Vincent cutting off a piece of his own ear – but not the whole ear as is often rumored.

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6. Van Gogh created his most famous work “The Starry Night” while staying in an asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France.NatalyaStClairVanGogh7---Fact7

7. In a short period of ten years, Van Gogh made approximately 900 paintings.

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8. It is thought that Vincent shot himself in a wheatfield in Auvers, France but did not die until 2 days later at the age of 37. This fact is widely contested, though, and several alternate theories have sprung up, including one that he was shot by two boys. His brother Theo, at his side when he died, said that Vincent’s last words were “La tristesse durera toujours,” which means “the sadness will last forever.”

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9. Vincent Van Gogh visually depicted turbulence, an incredibly complex (and still unsolved) mathematical principle in several paintings during a particularly chaotic time in his life.

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10. Vincent only sold one painting during his lifetime and only became famous after his death.

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Check out the full TED-Ed Lesson “The unexpected math behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” that these GIFs were pulled from:

 

55 Comments

  1. Jenna

    In 2011 it was confirmed that Vincent van Gogh did not kill himself but was accidentally shot by a group of boys playing with a gun.

    • Amalia

      Nope! Just a theory for right now, but two major authors, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, are proponents of this theory. Still, here are several decades of research that suggest Vincent shot himself, and relatively little documentation that suggests he didn’t. (For instance, Vincent was known to self-harm after suffering feelings of rejection, e.g. cutting his ear.)

      While it’s a compelling theory, it’s not one that has been accepted by the art history community yet.

      Signed,
      A Van Gogh Scholar

      • jan

        Thank you for the correction…Vincent’s life has been misrepresented and speculated upon for too long…leave the man in peace already! Anyone who has spent time in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and studied his paintings, read the letters of condolence and other documents there, and have read his real life story (not the one depicted by Hollywood) will have a totally different take on him. RIP Vincent.

      • Terri

        Vincent Van Gogh shot himself. His nephew (Theo’s son) was very ill and required extended hospitalization, and Vincent was getting to the point where he needed to be institutionalized. He knew that Theo could not afford to pay for both. It was one of the reasons he sacrificed his life, in addition to his epilepsy and bi-polarism.

        • I have often wondered why someone who wanted to KILL themselves would shoot themselves in the abdomen. Not the head. The stomach. Think of how the gun must have been held. He was not a stupid man. People knew a head shot would kill (likely), and that an abdominal shot could be a mortal wound but only after long hours of suffering.
          Interestingly enough, even though the boys were often questioned, they never denied it. Just silence. That may speak the most to this issue.

    • John Paul Hansen

      It was not confirmed, but suggested in the comprehensive biography “Van Gogh, a Life” by White and Naifeh. They had some compelling evidence that Van Gogh was murdered, but they were not able to prove anything.

      What they *did* prove, is that Van Gogh was not holding the gun when he was shot.

    • hi, sorry for my poor english, im fan of van gogh, i read here for the firs time that ”Vincent van Gogh did not kill himself but was accidentally shot by a group of boys playing with a gun” how can i get this information?
      tnks

    • Not only was his shooting death by other than his own hand, his ear slicing was not by his own hand: it was Gauguin. Van Gogh was a shy innocent, a passive and hurt soul who did not want his partner-antagonist, Gauguin, to land in trouble for slicing his ear in their fight, so he took the blame, which is also why Gauguin fled; and so too with the village boys in the filed that day. He was injured and then shot, and he died a sad death, comforted by his brother.

      • Susan J

        We heard, in college, that after Van Gogh’s ear was cut off during the fight, he had a piece of it sent to his opponent as a sign of surrender.Is that true ?

        Over the years I have tried to tell others he did not cut off his own ear and send it to a girl, but that is still the commonly believed story.

    • Wendy

      People never want to believe that someone they admire would commit suicide. The same theories abound with Sylvia Plath and others. He long suffered with mental illness and there was little in terms of tratment at that time. Mental illness can be a terminal disease and attempts to deny it show that, culturally, we still stigmatize mental illness, cover it up, deny it, and view it as moral weakness of the individual who suffers with it.

  2. Verena Rossetto

    Complimenti molto bello. Esprime benissimo il nostro caro Vincent Van Gogh.

  3. Patrick McCartney

    A historian researching van Gogh’s death believes he was shot by town youths instead. I hope his version is right.

    • They never found the Gun… i wrote a show about Vincent. He did not cut his ear off either.

      • ashli

        can you recommend a more accurate peice of writing than my textbooks and every art historian I have ever heard lecture on him?
        Seriously, I want to read it.

    • Robert

      This theory gets bounded about every 5 years or so. The fact is that his brother came from Paris quickly and was by his side and talked with him well before he died. Their religion does NOT allow anyone who commits suicide to go to heaven. If someone had shot him, Vincent would have told his brother, thus securing his salvation and place in heaven.

      • Cori

        Not necessarily. Just because he didn’t TELL anyone he was murdered doesn’t make it any less so. Just because people THINK he committed suicide doesn’t mean that he did. So, if he was murdered and everyone thought he killed himself, he still gets to go to heaven (under his religion.)

      • Anne

        The Catholic Church does NOT teach that people who commit suicide are automatically disqualified for Heaven. (You can look it up in the Catechism if you don’t believe me.)

        The Church DOES teach that we cannot know the state of the person’s soul when they commit suicide, and that repentance is still possible even in the last moment. Furthermore, psychological disorders (which van Gogh had in spades) are considered extenuating circumstances for sins of self-harm, including suicide. His psychological disorders could therefore reduce or potentially eliminate the condition of ‘Deliberate Consent’ and/or ‘Full Knowledge’ for a sin to be Mortal – Mortal sin meaning one that would result in not going to Heaven – and instead suicide would be reduced to a Venial sin, which means that the person would most likely make a stop in Purgatory in order to cleanse the soul of sin before progressing to Heaven.

        In order for a sin to be Mortal, three conditions must be present:

        -The act is Grave Matter – acts which are specified in the Ten Commandments, such as murder (including suicide).

        -The act is committed with Full Knowledge – ignorance of the seriousness of the act can diminish the guilt in committing it.

        -The act is committed with Deliberate Consent – meaning that the person must freely and fully choose to commit that act, and circumstances such as emotional disorders and outside pressure to commit the act can decrease or eliminate the guilt in committing a sin.

        Even if ALL of the conditions are present for a sin to be Mortal, and therefore result in the loss of Heaven, a person may still repent and be saved. Many Saints of the Catholic Church who have been granted visions of Heaven, Judgement, etc., have reported that a soul is given a period of time after death in which to review their lives and make the choice of their final destination. Each person chooses to go to Heaven, or not, for themselves. God takes no say in the matter – after death each person will know, with perfect clarity, what they deserve and will choose it freely.

        Lastly, the Catholic Church teaches that we must never presume that anyone, and that means ANYONE, has gone to H**l. We cannot make that judgement, only God and the person in question knows for sure. H**l is too terrible, and each human soul is too precious, to even consider assuming that someone is in H**l, for any reason. It is sinful to say things like “Go to H**l”, or “[Name] is in “H**l” – even if that person’s actions are objectively sinful, even if the person considered is the worst of tyrants and evil men. When Dante wrote his work “The Divine Comedy”, specifically “Inferno”, he was wrong to give examples of people who might be found in H**l.

        So, that concludes today’s lesson in Catholic Theology. :) (Yes, I am Catholic.) Personally, I am highly inclined to bet that van Gogh did make it to Heaven. Considering the circumstances in his life, there is immensely strong likelihood of extenuating circumstances even if he did, in fact, commit suicide.

  4. wanderly alves de oliveira

    Fator de uma vida nada comum.
    Uma capacidade de visão toda sua..
    E o desconhecimento de valores daquela época, o fez remoer até a morte sua condição de um ser triste.
    Sou na condição de fã um admirador…

  5. I am working on a one man show on this great man,and I so appreciate your post here . As a very young man his works touched my heart and so it remains.

  6. Faiq haddad

    it is so nice

  7. shin,eui kwang

    I really love Vincent Van Gogh. ^^

  8. Leah

    he had a Tinitus,that why he cutting off a piece of his own ear

  9. Merel

    Maybe interesting:
    The great grandson of Vincents brother Theo, was also named Theo van Gogh and was a famous Dutch movie director. The van Gogh family could have been billionairs on Vincents paintings. Instead they (the director’s grandfather) founded the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, for the world to see the works. They got around 7 million dollars. You cannot even buy one van Gogh painting for that price. Theo van Gogh, the movie director was shot and killed on the streets of Amsterdam in 2004, after he made a critical documentary about oppression of woman in the Islam. The was captured the same day.

  10. Khozaima

    What a great artist. May be his purpose was to make his art live forever. An absolute genius,

  11. Christian

    The story related to the cutting of Van Gogh’s ear is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. It’s not definitively known whether Van Gogh himself or Gauguin cut Van Gogh’s ear. In any event, the cutting of the ear probably did not occur while Van Gogh was having a seizure. It’s possible Van Gogh had a seizure after the event, but I’ve never read that. And, although there is much speculation about what psychosis Van Gogh suffered from at the very end of his life, including a historical diagnosis, the only long-term mental illnesses Van Gogh seemed to have were depression, manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder.

    • Tanya

      One does not receive the diagnoses of depression and bipolar illness. These illnesses are exclusive and cannot coexist. As well, manic depression is the colloquial term for bipolar disorder, so they are the same thing.

  12. francois

    Yes.i have read the same account.cannot confirm it though.

  13. It has been proven and a recent book written by a historian that he did not shoot himself but was rather shot by the young guy who sold him his alcohol. They proved due to the powder burns that it was impossible to have held the gun far enough from himself

  14. David Nelson

    About30 years ago I saw a sequential series of self portraits in the Amsterdam Museum. The note said that his painting changed as his STD progressed. There does not seem to be any fully rounded study of van Goth’s life. Forensic medical science has to be a component. His painting reminds me of the pining of children before “education” hits them.

  15. Megan Hashemi

    Dear Ted ..

    You are respected among the Academic community. Please get Your facts straight before promoting Facts. Vincent did not kill himself in a wheatfield. He was bullied by some local adolescent boys who accidentally shot him nearby to the room he was staying in Auvers. He was on his way back from painting at the wheatfield to his room at L’Auberge Ravoux … and unfortunately … he had an encounter with a few of the local boys … all of whom Vincent knew. He was shot by accident .. but .. ended up dying from the gunshot wound a few days later in his small, rented room.

  16. Douglas White

    no one mentioned that Theo his brother in so many ways carried Vincent thru life. Without Theo we would never have known of Vincent!

  17. Somewhere I just read that Van Gogh cut his ear while having a seizure (wasn’t in this video, but on the page that took me here). A couple of things, first anyone who knows epilepsy knows that you can’t cut your ear while having a seizure. And second equaling an epileptic seizure to a psychotic event is off.
    And man please, lay down the “Mexican sleeping on the cactus stereotype”, we have too much ignorance as it is. Cheers.

    • Kristen Bourne

      Please research Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. They are seizures that do not necessarily cause convulsions, but disturbances in mood, sensory and spacial awareness, mood and memory. Debilitating headaches are also a symptom.
      Source: I was diagnosed in 2001

  18. Odilie

    Happy birthday Vincent! wherever in the Universe you are, great Genius!!…..

  19. dimitra

    Congratulations!veeeeery nice work!:) :) :)

  20. Mila Skaric

    It is not important if he did or did not cut his ear off…he was a genius and his art still touches an enormous number of people.
    I surely am a fan and will allways be.
    Vincent van Gogh, rest in peace!

  21. Huibert de Man

    Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands, in the province of Brabant, in Nuenen, but nit in Holland, which is a different province. Nuenen is 10 km from my home, Geldrop, near Eindhoven, the town of PSV and Philips.

    • Gerhard ten Hoopen

      To Huibert de Man… Let’s get things straight! Vincent was not born in Nuenen. He was born in Zundert. Later on, his parents moved to Etten and finally to Nuenen, as his father was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.

  22. ira kaufman 'cowfy'

    i was led to understand when the altercation became physical ‘tween gauguin and vincent,that it was gauguin who sliced off vincents’ ear.i lean to this opinion.

  23. Brian

    ……and still people would rather talk about his ear or his death instead of his art. “They’re not listening still”.

  24. Lis

    Why do we need to know how Vincent died? His art lives on, and that is what makes Vincent forever. His art is amazing. Even though a lot of his art shows angst, there is colour and fun in his art. I love his art.

  25. Naomi

    Common mistake, van Gogh was not born in Holland but in the Netherlands. Holland are two provinces in the west where Zundert, where he was born, is not situated. Zundert is in Brabant, near the border of Belgium.

  26. ira kaufman 'cowfy'

    and by the way.it has been written that he shot himself in the testicles as well.perhaps ‘you’ never will.i smell ‘mac’ users.some youngsters shot him.indeed.

  27. Abbey

    That… that’s not how you pronounce Van Gogh.

  28. Umesh Shebe

    We all Love you Vince Van Gogh, you are our inspiration of art. How you struggled in life and not leaving your art till you dia. Hats off to you !!!

  29. Helena Lucas

    where and what are the sources of this information?

  30. snezana

    http://www.vggallery.com/forum/works.htm#_redvineyard
    “It is usually said that Vincent sold only one oil painting during his entire life, The Red Vines, which was sold at any exhibition in Brussels just five months before his death. But there is evidence that before then he sold a painting in London and this might explain his idea of returning to England as a dealer. A letter dated 3 October 1888 from Theo to London art dealer Sully & Lori has been found which refers to the purchase of a Corot landscape and a ‘self-portrait by V. van Gogh’. This does not seem to refer to the any of the known self-portraits, and the letter raises the intriguing possibility that the picture could still be somewhere in England, unidentified”

  31. that was great and very motionful

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