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Violence and brilliance of the canvases painted by post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh are a mute reminder of his short and tragic life. Born at Groot-Zundert in the district of North-Brabant in Holland on March 30, 1853, the eldest of six children, Van Gogh's early childhood was normal and uneventful. But, growing up in a bleak region where the plight of the peasant was of greatest importance would have a tremendous impact on Van Gogh's impressions, which would later show up in his work.
Van Gogh's father, a Protestant minister, had hopes that his son would follow in the footsteps of his forebears and become either a clergyman or successful businessman. At an early age an extremely sensitive Van Gogh, who was prone to frequent bouts of depression, gave indications that he would not be well suited for either profession. At the age of 16 Van Gogh was recommended by an uncle for a clerical position at Goupil, an art gallery in The Hague. In 1873 Van Gogh transferred to a branch of Goupil in London. Here he experienced his first tragic love affair when he fell in love with his landlady's daughter. When he returned to Holland for the holidays, his parents found him utterly defeated and depressed.
From 1874 to 1875, Van Gogh developed a deep interest in religion. During this time he transferred to Goupil in Paris and attempted to rekindle his love affair, but to no avail. In 1876 he was discharged from Goupil and immediately took a teaching post at Ramsgate on the south coast of England. During this time his avid study of religion led him to study for the ministry. After 14 months Van Gogh abandoned his studies and later was admitted to a lay evangelical school in Brussels. Soon after he became a missionary and sought out a poor district of the Brinage near the French border, where he preached to local miners. This ended when the poverty of the area clashed with the extreme compassion of this extremely sensitive man. He was dismissed after giving away all his clothes and belongings to those less fortunate than he.
In 1880, Van Gogh ceased to wonder and decided he would be an artist. For years he traveled and sketched, studying the styles of different artists and developing his own, leaning toward dark and gloomy colors. In the latter part if 1855 in Antwerp he experienced rich color effects of paintings done by Rubens, which brightened his art work and learned techniques of using small strokes or dots. It was during this time Van Gogh began using long slender threads which stretched into landscape forms. By 1888, ill and unable to sell his paintings, he left Paris and returned to Arles. This was a period of intense activity for the artist. Eager to establish an artist colony he asked another artist, Paul Gauguin to live with him. Frequent quarrels and violent altercations between the two men led to a final blow when Van Gogh attempted to attack Gauguin with a razor. In a fit of remorse at what he had done, Van Gogh fled to his room and sliced of his ear lobe. Hospitalized in a delirious condition, he recovered but continued to have fits of depression. Finally realizing the seriousness of his illness Van Gogh requested to be transferred to an asylum in Saint-Remy.
In May of 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, where he began to work enthusiastically on landscapes. In July, a new attack prompted Van Gogh to obtain a revolver and on July 27, 1890, he walked into a field and shot himself in the chest. Two days later Vincent Van Gogh's tragic life ended. Today, this misfit who lived in a world that could not appreciate his genius until after his death, is known and loved throughout the world for his art work. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have been drawn to the various museums which display his work.