Vincent van Gogh – 30 Interesting Facts About His Life and Art

by Sherry Riter in Art  

Almond Branches in Bloom by Vincent van Gogh
Almond Branches in Bloom, San Remy, c.1890

I have always been fascinated with the well known artist and works of Vincent van Gogh. Below are a few facts to help whet your appetite to learn more about the art around us.
  • On March 30, 1853, Anna Cornelia Carbentus gave birth to Vincent van Gogh in Groot-Zundert, Holland.
  • Vincent’s father was Reverend Theodorus van Gogh.
  • He was named after his grandfather and stillborn brother who died a year earlier than Van Gogh’s birth.
  • “Van Gogh” is pronounced differently in English and Dutch. In the United States his name has a silent “gh” — /van-goh/ which is the most common pronunciation. However, in Holland, the “v” in “van” is silent. Listen here.
  • He had several siblings – a brother named Theodorus nicknamed Theo, another named Cor, and three sisters whose names were Elisabeth, Anna and Willemina.
  • As a child, Vincent was serious, silent and thoughtful.
  • Vincent van Gogh suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, hallucinations and mental illness.
  • Van Gogh was close friends with Paul Gauguin, another famous artist.
  • Vincent van Gogh’s earliest career aspiration was to be a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church like his father. He was a missionary temporarily, but eventually gave in to pressure from his parents and gave up on the idea.
  • Astonishingly, Vincent wrote over 800 letters in his lifetime with the majority of them written to his brother and closest friend, Theo.
  • When Van Gogh first began painting, he used peasants as models and later would paint flowers, landscapes and himself, mostly because he was too poor to pay the models.
  • Van Gogh never found romantic love in his life after a couple failed relationships.
  • It is simply amazing that Vincent created a total of 2000 pieces of art which included 900 paintings and 1100 sketches/pencil drawings.
  • Vincent van Gogh was a self-taught artist with little training.
  • Van Gogh was financially supported most of his life by his brother, Theo.

Irises by Vincent van Gogh
Irises, Saint-Remy, c. 1889

  • Vincent van Gogh never had much formal training in art, however, he attended an art school for a few months in Antwerp, in 1885, which was four years before his death.
  • In a short period of ten years, Van Gogh created approximately 900 paintings. Think about it – in just ten years, he created 900 paintings that are now known to be some of the greatest works of art ever created.
  • Van Gogh is considered to be a Dutch Post-Impressionist.
  • Unfortunately, Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime and it was called The Red Vineyard.
  • Van Gogh only became famous after his death.
  • During an epileptic seizure, Van Gogh attempted to attack his friend Paul Gauguin with an open razor. This ultimately resulted in the Vincent cutting off a piece of his own ear – not the whole ear.
  • At the age of twenty-eight, in a letter to Theo, he wrote: “I came away from him with some painted studies and a few watercolours. They are not masterpieces, of course, yet I really believe that there is some soundness and truth in them, more at any rate than what I’ve done up to now. And so I reckon that I am now at the beginning of the beginning of doing something serious. And because I can now call on a couple of technical resources, that is to say, paint and brush, everything seems fresh again, as it were.” Van Gogh would be shocked to know how people marvel at his work every day all over the world. Yes, Vincent, we know you did something serious.
  • Van Gogh painted 37 self-portraits.
  • In 1890, Vincent van Gogh ended his battle with sanity and shot himself in a wheat field in Auvers, France, when he was only 37 years old, but did not die until two days later.
  • His brother Theo died six months after Vincent and is buried next to him in Auvers, France.
  • 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.”
  • More than one hundred and fifty psychiatrists have tried to diagnose the cause of Vincent van Gogh’s illnesses and the diagnoses range from schizophrenia, porphyria, syphilis, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy.
  • His brother’s wife collected Vincent’s paintings and letters after his death and dedicated herself to ensuring that his work received the recognition it deserved.
  • Van Gogh’s work began to shoot to fame eleven years after his death due to the diligence of his brother’s wife.
  • Vincent van Gogh’s most famous work and my favorite is Starry Night, c.1889 and was created while staying in an asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
Starry Night, c.1889

The Redhead Riter

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

CaveGirl June 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Very interesting, I feel a little more cultured about art now =) Thanks for sharing!

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Joan June 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I adore his work. I use posters of his work as writing inspiration in my classroom.

Thanks for all the info!

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4W June 29, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Did you know that the reason his later paintings such as the SUNFLOWERS had a yellow glaze on them was due to the jaundice he was suffering thanks to the absinthe habit he had- he was actually seeing the world with a yellow film on it.

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bob marley April 22, 2012 at 7:52 am

well i think that the facts should be based on his artwork more than anything

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The Redhead Riter April 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Yep! I think so too, Bob!

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Jim Valko September 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Vincent was a very spiritual person. His art was his attempt to paint the soul, or spiritual essence of those things in which he painted. Vincent referred to the spiritual essence of things as the “it.”

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The Redhead Riter September 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Really? That is very interesting. The spirit or soul of anything, I believe, is the beginning of everything. Thanks for another wonderful fact about Vincent van Gogh!

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ally September 5, 2012 at 7:24 am

why did vincent van gough paint 37 self portraits and then killled him self at 37 did he have like A.D.D or A.D.H.D? it make me wounder why don’t people take these fact to figure out if he has a desiese i found that he can have 2.

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The Redhead Riter September 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Ally,

I think they have researched his health and found he did suffer from several things. I can’t remember right off the top of my head, but maybe I will do a post on it sometime. Thanks for your comment!

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Skye December 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm

they said he killed himself during an epileptic episode

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Sherry Riter December 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Amazing all the ways he supposedly died. It really makes me wonder which one is true.

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bob September 9, 2012 at 6:55 am

thank you for all the info, could you say more about his paintings though??

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The Redhead Riter September 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm

This post is more about Vincent van Gogh instead of a analyzation of his art, but that is a WONDERFUL idea!!! Thank you, Bob!

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Zoe 6JD September 18, 2012 at 3:12 am

Wow I never knew so many stuff about Vincent :o :P :D :)

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Sherry Riter September 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

LOL I’m glad you learned something!

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Zahra November 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm

This is awesome it helped me with my homework!!! :)

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Sherry Riter November 24, 2013 at 12:49 am
Luke October 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm

This is great for homework.
Thanks for this.
I feel like I’ve learnt something cool!

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Sherry Riter October 30, 2012 at 12:27 am

I’m glad I can help! ;)

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Zahraa November 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

that helped me with my art homework

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Sherry Riter November 20, 2012 at 2:00 am

Great! I hope you enjoyed it.

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Faima March 16, 2013 at 5:40 am

Thank you for putting this up it helped me a lot with my art project :)

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Sherry Riter March 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

You’re welcome!

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ells January 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

same! our teacher was like i need you to find 10 facts about an impretionist!! lolz! x

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Sherry Riter January 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Oh my goodness! LOL

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bryan December 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Please note: ‘whet your appetite’ not ‘wet.’ Pesky English. Great article otherwise.

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Sherry Riter December 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm
Skye December 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I am doing a report on Van Gogh and am thankfull for this list. It really helped with my project!

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Sherry Riter December 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Skye, I’m glad it helped you!

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Caitlin February 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm

This was really useful for my art homework! I had find 10 facts too.They are really intresting and I never knew he painted Starry Night in an asylum.

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Sherry Riter February 13, 2013 at 8:07 pm

LOL I hope you get an A+ on your homework!

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Maisie March 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

Thx! That helped me with my homework a lot because it was really a last minute project.

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Sherry Riter March 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm

LOL You’re welcome!

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Fish Tail March 20, 2013 at 8:34 am

Wow, thanks!

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Sherry Riter March 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

You’re welcome!

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Dylan Baldwin April 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Dylan Baldwin

Thank you this helped me a lot with my fact file!
P.S Maybe you could do a whole website all with Van Gogh’s paintings?!

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Sherry Riter May 1, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Dylan!

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eric May 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm

this work is amazing! :) xx

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Sherry Riter May 12, 2013 at 9:05 am

Thanks!

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margo macfarlane June 4, 2013 at 1:17 am

His death, the cause, is currently disputed. There is strong evidence he was accidently shot by 2 young boys from the village he lived in. Van gogh protected the boys with his silence.

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Sherry Riter June 6, 2013 at 8:29 am

I didn’t know that…thanks.

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Dave Strider June 22, 2013 at 11:32 pm

i believe that Van Gogh didnt kill himself, i thought that he was shot by a local farmboy on accident, due to a “malfunctioning gun” and Van Gogh didnt want the boy to be in trouble so he said that he shot himself. also, it was said that Van Gogh welcomed his death. i think he also ate yellow paint because it would bring happiness inside of him? anyways, he is a sad but inspiring person. :c

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Sherry Riter June 26, 2013 at 8:14 am

Interesting! I hadn’t heard that about him. Yes, he was a sad and inspiring person. Thanks!

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Emily October 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

WOW! So much good infomation about van gogh! THANKS!! That really helped with my homework and it was very interesting too. My teacher will be sooooooo GLAD- my homework is always rubbish! I showed my twin sister this website and she got jealous, as she has the same h.w as me! :) :D ;)

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Sherry Riter October 11, 2013 at 6:51 pm

That’s hilarious Emily!!! :P

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Tracy :) November 2, 2013 at 10:57 pm

THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have a project about Van Gogh in French but it still helped a lot!
Great Facts ;)

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Sherry Riter November 6, 2013 at 8:02 am
Rumena Begum April 11, 2014 at 6:19 am

I JUST LOVE HIS ARTWORK I ALSO LIKE PICASSO’S BUT VAN GOGH’S IS BETTER

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Sherry Riter April 12, 2014 at 10:30 pm

;) We all have our favorites! :)

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