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Painter - Vincent van Gogh
A self-portrait by van Gogh, painted 2 years before his death, when the artist was 35 years old.

Painter - Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on the 30th of March 1853, in the Dutch village of Groot-Zundert. He was named after his brother who was born already dead exactly one year before. Perhaps because of this van Gogh had a dark disposition.

He began work at the age of 15 at his uncle's art dealership before being transferred to a gallery in London 5 years later. There he developed a liking for English culture - and a love of his landlady's daughter. When she rejected van Gogh's proposal of marriage he suffered a breakdown and was dismissed from his employment.

Van Gogh then aimed for a career in the church but was twice rejected so he turned his mind to art. He enjoyed little success and was supported by his brother during these years.

His love life a complete disaster, van Gogh's mental health suffered once more. He argued passionately with his contemporaries about their paintings and became alienated amongst them.

In 1888 he moved to Arles in the south of France where his greatest works were created - although his mental health declined and he mutilated his ear before voluntarily being admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he spent one year.

On the 27th of July 1890, van Gogh shot himself in the chest. The wound did not kill him and he was discovered and taken to hospital. His brother Theo was called for and two days later van Gogh died in his brother's arms at the age of just 37.

Despite his harsh life, his poverty, his struggle with mental illness and his failure to achieve recognition during his lifetime, van Gogh is today considered one of the best Dutch painters, second only to Rembrandt. He created over 2,000 paintings in his short, yet productive life.

For a closer look at the pictures, please click on them to enlarge.
1.
Van Gogh deliberately chose unattractive models for this painting of peasants sitting down for a meal. What is the painting's name?
A Peasant Supper
Dinner Time
The Potato Eaters
An Earthy Meal
Van Gogh wanted to give a realistic portrayal of farm labourers. In his own words, "I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labour and... that they have thus honestly earned their food"
2.
The Bedroom is a painting Van Gogh made of his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles. The door on the left side of the picture led to a guest room where which other artist slept?
Gauguin
Monet
Renoir
Manet
Gaugin spent nine weeks in Van Gogh's house in Arles and the two men painted together. Their relationship was a strained one however, and Gaugin left shortly after the notorious incident in which van Gogh mutilated his own ear
3.
Also painted at Arles in the same year as the previous painting (1888) this piece is entitled Starry Night Over... which river?
Starry Night Over the Garonne
Starry Night Over the Aude
Starry Night Over the Adour
Starry Night Over the Rhone
The river was just a few minutes walk from the Yellow House where the artist was living at the time. The subject of lights at night time fascinated Van Gough. Here we can see the lights on the river bank reflected in the water and almost mirroring the stars in the night sky. The constellation of the Plough is clearly visible
4.
Also painted at Arles, and with a theme of light at night time, The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum was originally entitled what?
Tables, and Stars
Coffeehouse, in the evening
Drinkers, in Darkness
Bar, at night
It was first exhibited in 1891 under the title Café, le Soir (Coffeehouse, in the evening) and is another example of van Gogh's fascination with light in darkness. Of this painting he said, "Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colours itself sulphur pale yellow and citron green... it is the only way to get away from our conventional night with poor pale whitish light, while even a simple candle already provides us with the richest of yellows and oranges"
5.
One of a series of paintings on the same subject, Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers was briefly the most expensive work of art when in 1987 it was sold for what price?
£44,750,000
£34,750,000
£24,750,000
£14,750,000
The record did not last for long. Later that same year another van Gogh painting, Irises, was bought for $53.9 million (£31,580,000)
6.
Wheat Field with Cypresses is the title of three almost identical works by van Gogh which were painted in 1889 whilst the artist was living where?
A private school
An abbey
A hermitage
A mental health asylum
Saint Paul de Mausole was a monastery and mental asylum which van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself to whilst his health was suffering. He stayed there from May 1889 until May 1890, painting several of his major works during his time there. The asylum is still a psychiatric hospital to this day
7.
Also painted during van Gogh's voluntary confinement was this painting of which kind of tree?
A mulberry tree
An oak tree
A cypress tree
An apple tree
Van Gogh was pleased with this painting. In a letter to his sister Willemina he said "As regards mulberry trees, there are a lot here. I painted one not long ago when its bushy foliage was a magnificent yellow against a very blue sky and a white, stony, sunlit field behind"
8.
Influenced by Japanese prints and also painted during van Gogh's time at the asylum, this is a painting of which type of flowers?
Violets
Irises
Pansies
Bluebells
Van Gogh began working on this painting during his first week at the asylum. His brother Theo submitted the piece for exhibition at the famous Salon des Independants in September of 1889
9.
This is perhaps van Gogh's most famous painting. It is the inspiration for a song by Don Mclean in tribute to the artist. What is the painting's title?
Night Time Clouds
The Starry Night
View from Bedroom Window
Evening over Arles
Not to be confused with the earlier Starry Night Over the Rhone, The Starry Night is a more imaginative piece. It was painted whilst the artist was in the asylum and some have suggested that it may have been influenced by hallucinations which van Gogh had experienced
10.
A symbol of new life, Almond Blossom was painted in 1890 to celebrate the birth of who?
Van Gogh's son
Van Gogh's nephew
Van Gogh's daughter
Van Gogh's niece
Van Gogh's brother Theo, wrote to him in January of that year telling him about the birth of his son, who would be named Vincent after his uncle. Van Gogh started painting Almond Blossom at once as a gift to his brother to celebrate the birth of his son. Sadly, one year later both van Gogh and Theo would be dead

 

Author:  Graeme Haw

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