Vincent van Gogh Facts



Modified: 27 May 2022

Facts about Vincent Van Gogh

Many often overlook Vincent van Gogh facts. After all, most people romanticize the tragic life of an artist, even years after their death. Some have movies which portray them as the protagonist, while others have songs written about their journey, since everybody loves a wonderful story with a likable underdog. A prime example of a brokenly famous artist, who’d have exaggerations and false statements about his life, is Vincent van Gogh. Now scattered across the globe are his once worthless paintings.

Moreover, there have been songs written about his life. His post-impressionist style has created one-of-a-kind movies. TV shows, like Doctor Who, insisted on toying with our hearts by creating a fictional reality where Van Gogh could see the change he made in the world with his work, even years after his death.

He was also a member of a tightly knit circle of post-impressionists such as Monet and Pissarro. He befriended Paul Gauguin, another famous painter. Paul’s influence would become a debated source of Vincent’s misfortune. Many have claimed romantic involvement between Gauguin and Van Gogh because of the 1956 movie, Lust for Life. Meanwhile, others have been debating about Van Gogh’s suicide by gunshot. On another note, there have also been claims that he would eat yellow paint to feel happy.

Listed down here are 40 interesting Vincent van Gogh facts, and debunking all the rumors that went about after his grief-stricken life.

  1. They named Vincent after Vincent Willem, his parent’s stillborn.
  2. He was fluent in 4 languages: French, English, German, and Dutch.
  3. He produced about 900 paintings during his lifetime.
  4. His letters to his brother, Theo, amounted to 820.
  5. Vincent was 27-years-old when he pursued painting as a career.
  1. Vincent was born on the 30th of March 1853 and died on the 29th of July in 1890.
  2. His birthplace was Groot-Zundert, Holland.
  3. Yellow was his favorite color.
  4. Theo van Gogh, his brother, was his only regular customer and art dealer.
  5. He became posthumously famous.
  6. There is a museum made solely for his works alone named The Van Gogh Museum.
  7. Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Carbentus van Gogh were his parents.
  8. His death took place in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.
  9. Because of being poor, Theo subsidized him.
  10. Vincent struggled with fits of madness.
  1. Vincent’s former lover, Sien, named her son after him and is the only woman he ever lived with.
  2. Vincent’s portrait of his doctor, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, sold for $82.5 million at Christie’s auction house.
  3. One of his goals was to create a community of artists.
  4. A year before pursuing his artistic career, Vincent lived in poverty, with coal miners at Borinage, Belgium, where he had no contact with his family for 10 months.
  5. Vincent’s brother, Theo, died six months after him.
Table of Contents

Vincent ate paint and turpentine.

Vincent once sent a letter to Theo regarding the incident. He confessed that he had eaten inedible and poisonous items, though he had no recollection of doing so. His physician, Dr. Peyron, explained further that whenever Vincent had his attacks, he would attempt to kill himself by eating paint and turpentine.

Biochemists, such as Wilfred Niels Arnold, suggested that this behavior was a direct correlation to Vincent’s addiction. Vincent was a heavy drinker, and preferred Absinthe. This drink contains thujone, a poisonous substance that causes stomach pains, hallucinations, mood fluctuations, permanent brain damage, and pica.

Vincent Van Gogh, self portrait, painter
Source: Pixabay

Vincent cut off only a small portion of his ear.

Some say he cut off his whole ear, while some add that he had given said ear to a prostitute. The authentic story lies in an argument between Van Gogh and Gauguin, where Vincent had blacked out and used a knife to cut his earlobe. This was the first sign of Van Gogh’s deteriorating mental health. Arnold’s hypothesis of Absinthe containing harmful chemicals also supports this because Van Gogh and Gauguin’s drinking habits were increasing around this time.

New studies suggest he didn’t die by suicide.

Many believed Vincent’s death was through suicide, but recent claims pointed to murder. Vincent van Gogh’s death occurred 2 days after he came stumbling from a field. He barged into the inn he was living in, with a gunshot wound in the abdomen. He vocally expressed that he believed he may have had injured himself.

Two researchers, named Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh, believe otherwise. After the release of “Lust For Life”, a man named Rene Secretan confessed to torturing the artist. Secretan carried a malfunctioning gun at times. Smith and Naifeh’s research results stated that he did not kill himself, instead, drunk teenagers attacked him. To this day the Van Gogh Institute stands by what they’ve said ever since: that Vincent van Gogh died by suicide.

There is a book compilation of Vincent and Theo’s exchange of letters.

After the death of Vincent, with Theo following, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, Theo’s wife, compiled the brothers’ correspondence along with her son, whom she named after her brother-in-law, Vincent. The large number of letters compiled over the years of the brothers’ long-distance relationship, allows the readers to take a glimpse into the life Vincent had lived. Their letters tell us the story of Vincent’s private thoughts regarding women, his career, and his descent into uncertainty. The letters have been published over and over, and then translated into several languages before finally being published on the Internet as an everlasting dedication.

Van Gogh’s fascination with sunflowers is more than just appearance.

Before he met his fellow artist Paul Gauguin, who would arrive to stay with him in Arles, France to paint, Vincent already created the Sunflower Series. His decision to showcase sunflowers was unordinary, even for painters during his time, because of its coarse features and a stigma regarding its lack of elegant features. In Vincent’s case, it was those reasons that made him favor the flower. Yellow is the color of happiness for Vincent Van Gogh, and in his native culture, sunflowers were a symbol of loyalty and devotion. The sunflowers he painted were often in varying stages of life and death, a testament to life’s natural cycle.

Gauguin found Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers to be impressive and even painted a portrait of Vincent painting said flowers. Gauguin called this painting “The Painter of Sunflowers.”

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888)
Source: Pixabay

Vincent did actually sell one painting.

Vincent sold over just one painting. He tried to sell paintings to relatives and friends. Theo sold Vincent’s piece called The Red Vineyard. There are many records of Vincent exchanging his works for food or supplies for his art. Still, in terms of monetary value, there was no accurate estimation.

Many heavily criticized The Potato Eaters artwork.

One of Vincent’s famous artworks is The Potato Eaters. Van Gogh made the piece to express the harsh life of those in poverty. Its palette was like that of a dirty potato, and as the title suggests, the people in the painting worked hard to eat. It was also a difficult composition that allowed him to learn better in painting figures. Heavily criticized as being too dark with many errors during its time, nowadays, The Potato Eaters is one of his most favored artworks.

Vincent Van Gogh’s mental illnesses are still being researched today.

Van Gogh had many doctors during his lifetime. Physicians suggested he had a mood disorder similar to Bipolar Disorder, depression, and anxiety. Other doctors insisted Van Gogh had been schizophrenic. Some claimed that he suffered from Sunstroke, Borderline Personality Disorder, Lead Poisoning, and Hypergraphia, however, none of these remain purely conclusive. Most researchers agree, though, that he suffered from multiple mental disorders.

Vincent’s Geschwind Syndrome is his only documented diagnosis.

Van Gogh’s physicians, Dr. Felix Rey and Dr. Peyron, both concluded that his prolonged use of Absinthe aggravated his epileptic condition. Thus, they gave him Digitalis to ease the pain. It was the only official diagnosis ever made regarding the artist’s health condition.

Starry Night is famous both in art and math.

Starry Night is more famous than Van Gogh. In fact, the artwork does more than depict a tranquil village. Vincent knew living alone was no longer safe for him because his madness became more and more difficult to handle. He voluntarily checked himself inside Saint Paul De Mausole in Saint Remy’s. This was where he painted Starry Night, a view that could only be seen inside the asylum.

He adapted from his earlier works of using darker colors, and his growth of using brighter ones, into a mixture that produced this masterpiece. Scientists have also discovered a fortunate coincidence within Starry Night’s pattern in the sky that flawlessly represents a difficult mathematical structure called turbulent flow. Hundreds of years later, in 2004, the Hubble Telescope further proved the perfect embodiment of turbulent flow in Starry Night, after seeing similar patterns of dust and clouds around a star.

painting, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889)
Source: Pixabay

There’s a scientific theory why Van Gogh loved the color yellow.

Vincent may have loved yellow because of his prescription to Digitalis. The medicine has extracts from the Foxglove plant that have side effects of yellow vision known as xanthopsia.

Paul Gauguin and Vincent’s relationship soured only after 2 months.

People believed there was romantic tension between the two because of the movie called Lust for Life, which neither confirmed nor denied it. However, the reality of their relationship was far more destructive. They only lived together for 2 months, wherein Vincent prioritized their relationship, while Gauguin acknowledged his talents. In addition, their disagreements came about so frequently with the last one being so severe, that Vincent blacked out. Details of their fight are still being fact-checked. The only truth was that Gauguin was there to witness the earliest stages of Vincent’s deterioration, although many argue that Gauguin provoked this because of drinking. The two never saw each other again when Gauguin left, but continued to correspond via letters until Van Gogh’s death.

He was also a pastor and an art dealer. 

Vincent was an art dealer for 7 long years at Goupil, where his uncle was a partner of the company. Vincent eventually followed his pastor father’s footsteps after being fired. Unfortunately, Vincent’s perspectives did not match the pastor-life. He was expelled from the mission where he remained unresponsive to his family for a year, before returning with an alternative career path: a painter.

The Van Gogh family’s most treasured of Vincent’s creations is Blossoming Almond Tree.

Jo Van Gogh was Vincent’s sister-in-law. She sold Vincent’s paintings after Vincent’s and Theo’s deaths. All paintings have circulated to different owners before, but the only one that has never been sold is The Blossoming Almond Tree. Vincent gifted it to his nephew, whom Theo and Jo named after him. The family has never sold it, and it lies on display at the Van Gogh Museum to this day.

Vincent has 35 self-portraits to practice figure painting.

Vincent painted himself, not to be vain, but for a more sensible purpose. The reason for his many self-portraits was to study figure painting. Many of his self-portraits are widely known, but his most famous self-portrait is the one he made after he cut his earlobe.

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889)
Source: Unsplash

A movie depicting his life and death, Loving Vincent, was the first of its kind.

Loving Vincent is a story regarding the life and death of Vincent van Gogh. With a whopping 62,450 original paintings by over 200 original artists in cahoots, the movie was the first to use oil paintings similar to his style. It was first shot on a green screen with real actors who were then painted by the artists themselves using a technique called paint-on-glass animation. It is the first full-length feature to be done in this manner.

Many consider Vincent Van Gogh as a leading figure in post-impressionism.

Post-impressionism is an art movement that rejects impressionism. Vincent Van Gogh’s artworks allowed you to physically and emotionally feel the life inside it. An example would be his olive trees series, where he had painted olive trees with different evoking emotions.

His portraits of people also garnered different feelings with his choices of color. In his portrait of Adeline Ravoux, he chose darker colors. On the other hand, the portrait of Pere Tanguy only had bright colors. This helped the movement to solidify that natural colors and light were not important, but the meanings behind the artworks themselves.

Vincent Van Gogh collected Japanese Art.

Vincent described to Theo in a letter his first collection of Japanese woodcuts he bought from Antwerp, Belgium.  He found that Japanese art could only make him feel happy and at one with nature, something that clearly influenced his motivations in his own works.

He proposed 3 times to different women.

Vincent tried to marry 3 times. There was Caroline Haanebeck, Eugenie Loyer, and Kee Vos-Stricker. Sadly none of the women agreed. Although he lived with a prostitute, Sien, Vincent never married her because of Theo’s disapproval. Still, Sien named her son after Vincent.

Theo Van Gogh died six months after his beloved brother.

Theo died because of an undiagnosed case of syphilis, which was common during the 1800s. He had been living with it for years and had always been sickly. His health declined after Vincent’s death. Their graves are both in Auvers-Sur-Oise.