15 Interesting Facts About Vincent Van Gogh

One of the most distinguished artists to ever exist, Vincent Van Gogh’s repute is credited not only to his creative genius but also to personal misfortunes that he endured throughout his life. Contrary to popular knowledge, his name is not pronounced “van go” but “van Gogh”.

The Dutch painter was a self-taught artist with a body of work totalling 2000 artworks. Van Gogh was a difficult personality who struggled with identity and believed his true calling was to preach the gospel. He found his real purpose much later and went on to create his unconventional style with vibrating fusions of form and colour.

His art was symbolic of he was – emotional, imaginative, and dramatic even. Much of his paintings are transparent expressions of his struggle against madness.

Van Gogh painted over 30 self-portraits in a span of 3 years, marking him as the most productive self-portraitists of all time. He also had a tendency to paint at a fast pace with great spontaneity and intuition which is why he was able to average one painting per day in the 70 days leading to his death. 

Here are some enlightening facts about the life, death, and triumphs of Vincent Van Gogh. 

1. For an individual whose fame would be remembered for all times to come, Vincent Van Gogh never found success in his profession as an artist.

How unfortunate that despite the noticeable talent in his works, he managed to sell only one painting close to his untimely demise, and that too for a meagre amount of money.

2. Three other members of his family were named Vincent. Vincent was named after his paternal grandfather and his older brother, who died at childbirth a year before his own.

Vincent’s other brother Theo Van Gogh also ended up bestowing his son with the same name. 

3. This may come as a surprise but the person responsible for continuing the legacy of Van Gogh was a woman – no other than his own sister in law, Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger.

She dedicated her life to making sure Vincent’s life’s work went noticed and valued. She organized exhibitions and collaborated with art dealers, museums, and other artists to publicize his creations. Simply selling them was not an option for her. 

4. Van Gogh began painting relatively late in his life, at the age of 27. His early paintings are far from the vivid coloured pieces we’re most familiar with.

Vincent Van Gogh

His depictions were largely along with the themes of poverty and financial hardship and were, therefore, painted on dull and dark colour palettes reflective of the harsh realities lived at the time. 

5. Van Gogh considered becoming a minister like his father at some point in life. He prepped for an entire year for the entrance exam to Amsterdam’s School of Theology.

He was denied acceptance for his blatant refusal to give the Latin part of the exam as he considered the language to be dormant for peasants.

6. Before dwelling on art, Van Gogh went to work as a missionary in Belgium’s coal-mining region. During his time there, he claimed to have a spiritual revelation that inspired him to abandon all worldly belongings and start living in complete poverty.

The church with whom he was associated did not find this to be a fitting representation of the body so they removed him from this position soon after.

 7. Van Gogh had been battling mental illnesses his whole life but his state of mind began deteriorating rapidly in the late 1880s. He suffered from manic depression and experienced psychotic episodes and hallucinations.

He further neglected his health by drinking heavily and consuming hazardous objects like paints and turpentine. Furthermore, he faced social isolation from fellow painters due to his argumentative nature and a penchant for self-martyrdom. Loneliness worsened his condition to a great degree. 

8.One of Van Gogh’s most noted incidents involves his ear stunt. Though the actuality of how and why it happened is blurred, it is believed he mutilated his own ear lobe with a razor after getting into an argument with a fellow artist comrade, Paul Gauguin.

Some narrations of the story state he took his wrapped his dismembered ear and offered it to a prostitute at a brothel he frequented. 

9.Gauguin and Van Gogh met in 1887 Paris and later found lodgings in Arles, south of France where they painted together, albeit having different styles and approaches.

Just a day after the ear incident, Gauguin took off for Paris by train.

10.Along with him went their mutual dream of creating a ‘studio in the south’ where a community of artists would flourish.

Van Gogh’s piece ‘Self-portrait with bandaged ear’ that he painted just 2 weeks following the unfortunate quarrel is seen as a send-off to those unfulfilled dreams. This year became the turning point for his downfall. 

11. Van Gogh spent two weeks in Hôtel-Dieu hospital but was readmitted after a few weeks following a series of nervous breakdowns where he was completely unaware of what he was doing or saying.

His life only got more difficult when a petition was organized by his neighbours to remove him from the Yellow House as they believed he posed a threat to their welfare. Van Gogh was deeply hurt by this and claimed to never have harmed anyone at any rate. 

12. Van Gogh soon realized he could not risk living on his own and voluntarily admitted himself to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy where he was isolated for a whole year. At first, he seemed to have been on the mend but relapsed gravely, plagued by nightmares and breakdowns.

His painting “At Eternity’s Gate” is a sorrowful self-reflection of his troubled feelings at the asylum. To add to his tragedy, no friend or family ever came to visit. It is ever a wonder that Van Gogh’s arguably most noted bedazzling piece, Starry Night, was painted within the walls of that asylum. 

 13. The return of his dark episodes left him utterly hopeless and in gruelling despairIn his letters to Theo, his brother, he mentioned the onset of an attack he suffered mid-painting in the fields outside the asylum.

Astonishingly, some of his best and most lively paintings were produced during this harrowing period in his life, based on brief outings and views from his room. These beloved pieces now rest in some of the most renowned museums in the world.

14. Released from the asylum on May 16th, 1890, Van Gogh moved to a village near Paris known as Auvers to be close to Theo. A Doctor Paul Gachet kept a close eye on him and advised him to devote his time and efforts to art.

Van Gogh experienced a burst of creativity and constantly painted with a newfound eagerness. He was most prolific in his last 2 years of life, bringing to life nearly 900 oil paintings.

15. Not more than 2 months after his release, Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in a wheatfield and died from his injuries 2 days later on July 29, 1890. Prior to this, he had visited his brother Theo in Paris and came to know of his plans of quitting as an art dealer.

With money worries looming, Van Gogh once more descended into hopelessness and gave up on any optimism that his life would eventually improve. 

 16. Theo died only mere months after Vincent from the effects of Syphilis. Between the two, over 600 letters were exchanged in their lifetime; existing proof of their deep connection, friendship, and reliance on one another.

Theo, being younger, financially supported Vincent for most of his life and Vincent would share his theories, artistic views, and personal plights with his brother throughout his. Initially, Theo was buried at Utrecht but his wife Jo exhumed him and had him reburied next to Vincent in Auvers.

She also managed to collect most of the letters which were collated and published in 1914.  


Such was the troubled and tragic tale of Vincent Van Gogh. It is a commonly understood notion that geniuses often tend to be alone and Van Gogh’s circumstances fit the bill quite rightly. His creative madness found no room in the hearts of those around him. The same undeniable talent that was met with harsh criticism during his life was so positively revered following his death.

While most of his work has believed to have been lost, those that remain are now part of over 10 most famous art museums in the world, with 200 paintings exhibited in Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam alone. Vincent Van Gogh has become a big part of 21st-century pop culture, with his portrayals in film, television, and theatre, tributes in music, and cultural depictions in literature.

As is often said, the real tragedy of Vincent Van Gogh was not that he died without an ounce of fame or penny to his name but that his mental illnesses left him completely lonely, helpless, and obscured from witnessing beauty on earth that his art so vividly captured.  Also, Check out 25 Most Famous Vincent Van Gogh Paintings         

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