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Vincent Van Gogh, Troubled Genius

Updated on January 20, 2012
Self-portrait 1887
Self-portrait 1887

Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zunder in Holland; he was one of six children. He was closest to his brother Theo who was four years younger.

Before he took on painting full time, Vincent held several jobs. He began working for an art dealership run by his uncle Vincent at the age of 15; he was fired at 21 for his poor attitude in dealing with customers. Other jobs he held were supply teacher, minister's assistant and bookshop clerk.

In 1880, at the urging of his brother Theo, he turned to art full time. He attended the Royal Academy of Art in Brussels where he studied under Willem Roelofs. After taking art courses Vincent began painting in earnest. Theo supported Vincent financially for the rest of his life.

Throughout his life, Van Gogh suffered from mental problems that may or may not have been medical in origin. In 1888, he cut off his left ear lobe and supposedly gave it to a prostitute. He was hospitalized after that event.

Vincent Van Gogh died on July 29th, 1890, two days after shooting himself in the chest.

Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive but now his painting are amongst the highest priced works of art. His Irises sold for $102.3 million in 1987 and Sunflowers sold for $75.4 million the same year. His art is housed in art galleries all over the world and in a poll I looked at recently, Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci were tied for favorite artist.

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) by Don McLean

The song Vincent by Don McLean is one of the most beautiful and haunting songs that I have ever heard. I listened to it so much when it was released in 1972 that I still have the words memorized. I am sure it contributed to my long standing appreciation of Vincent Van Gogh's art works.

Excerpt from Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will.

Reprinted from

Starry Night Over the Rhone 1888

The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night 1888

Sunflowers 1888

Starry Night 1889


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  • Paula Atwell profile image

    Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

    I love his work. So rich in color and dimension.

  • tony55 profile image

    femi 4 years ago from Nigeria


  • PeggyLou profile image

    Peggy Salvatore 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic States US

    Just bought a bracelet with Starry Night, one of my favorite paintings. Used to have it hanging in my apartment when I was in my 20s, and spent many hours in NYC art museums fascinated by Van Gogh, Picasso (esp his portrait of Gertrude Stein and his studies for Guernica). For those who haven't, consider visiting the Barnes if you find yourself in Philadelphia. Again, thank you for these great posts.

  • Brenda L Scully profile image

    Brenda Lorraine Scully 4 years ago from Ireland

    How sad he only sold one painting whilst alive. I love his work, and i really enjoyed this hub.........

  • suzzycue profile image

    Susan Britton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Hi Univited Writer . This is an awesome hub and I can't believe I have this painting The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night 1888 in my Frame that I made out of aluminum cans. Check it out- it is on my hub page for real . I found it in a dumpster with another restaurant sign. I never even knew what this painting was called. I am sure it is a print because someone glued it to a piece of plywood and I fastened it to the back of my tin can frame. Just imagine, I have a Vincent Van Gogh paining on my wall and never knew it. WOW!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    He happens to be my favorite artist so this hub was a natural for me. Great job, wonderful research and the video was topnotch.

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 5 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

  • profile image

    StAlKeRs! 5 years ago

    anywho. i'm doing a project on starry night so if you could like give me info. on that????? thx.

  • rmcrayne profile image

    rmcrayne 5 years ago from San Antonio Texas

    I too love the song Vincent. I also love the episode about Van Gogh on Dr. Who. Wouldn’t that have been great if he could have seen a glimpse into the future, and known how much his vision was appreciated. I was fortunate to see his work among the other impressionists at the National Gallery in D.C. in the late 90s.

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

    Uninvited Writer, I've included this hub in my list of weekly favorites. Congrats!

  • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

    Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

    great hub. I've always loved Starry Night!

  • AudreyHowitt profile image

    Audrey Howitt 6 years ago from California

    I have always loved his work--but yes, deeply troubled--

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

    This is a great hub. It is a great moving song, and the videos are great so we can see his paintings again.

  • tebo profile image

    tebo 6 years ago from New Zealand

    I very much enjoyed this hub and being able to sing the words of Vincent correctly was nice too. Love that song.

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

    Absolutely LOVED this hub. I too was overwhelmed by ´Starry, starry night´ in 1972. Thanks for printing the words out. , and for putting up so many of Van Goghs´paintings. To think he never sold ONE in his life is quite sad , . Thank you again for a great hub

  • Apepperson profile image

    Apepperson 7 years ago from Texas

    Wow! What an excellent story. Thanks for sharing. I love his work and learning every little detail about his life that I can.

  • esatchel profile image

    PDGreenwell 7 years ago from Kentucky

    Wonderful hub! My appreciation for his work was enriched when I had the opportunity to see some in person. The actual laying on of the paint is a sight to behold. His work is so dynamic, alive!

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Unfortunately, I haven't been to Amsterdam at all. I really would like to visit one day.

  • Paraglider profile image

    Dave McClure 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

    Have you had a chance to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam? There are lots of his early studies there, where he's experimenting with restricted palettes and other techniques that were to become his stock in trade. Vincent was also one of the first songs I learned on guitar, lotsa years ago!

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks for dropping by IslandVoice. He was definitely one of the best.

  • IslandVoice profile image

    Sylvia Van Velzer 8 years ago from Hawaii

    I am a great fan of Van Gogh. I'm glad there are hubbers who are art lovers. Thanks for writing about one of the worlds best and most brilliant artists. The song Vincent is also one of my favorite songs. I can keep singing it.

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Sorry you aren't a fan William. That's okay though, you can still visit :)

    Kym, I have a copy of Irisis on my kitchen wall. Starry night will always be my favorite.

  • profile image

    Kym 8 years ago

    Vincent Van Gogh, a definite favorite. I have always loved his use of color and as a post impressionist, he I believe was one of the best. Of his almost 900 paintings I think the Irisis will always be my favorite!

  • William F. Torpey profile image

    William F Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

    I enjoyed this hub very much, Uninvited Writer. The paintings are interesting and the videos are superb. I am not, however, a great fan of art. I took an art appreciation course at UConn -- passed the course but failed to gain an appreciation for art. In fact I spent all of 10 minutes in the Louvre Museum in Paris, but left because I had other things to do. I guess I'm a lost cause when it comes to art.

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Yes, I heard that story during my research. I didn't mention it because it isn't really proven and only mentioned in one book :)

  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    Have you seen the news that there is a new book out saying that it was Gauguin who really cut of Van Gogh's ear in a fight outside a brothel and the story was concocted to protect Gauguin's reputation?

  • MagicStarER profile image

    MagicStarER 8 years ago from Western Kentucky

    Very interesting article - the life of Van Gogh is the story of a man who lived a very difficult life, what with poverty and mental problems. Fortunately, his brother, who loved him, believed in him, and supported him, so we could enjoy his paintings!

  • frogyfish profile image

    frogyfish 8 years ago from Central United States of America

    Great reading. You make it seem that his problems made the world so beautiful for the rest of us...and you're right. Thanks! Really enjoyed listening to Starry Night song too!

  • tdarby profile image

    tdarby 8 years ago

    I have to admit, I am grateful he was so troubled. I think it brought beauty to his painting. For me, Van Gogh stands as one of the most emotional, beautiful artists ever.

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 8 years ago from East Coast, United States

    Uninvited, I actually saw Starry Night for real in person and WOW. There is nothing like seeing a familiar painting in person. Seeing a print, you think it's so beautiful but for real is a whole different ball game.

    For instance, I always wondered why the big noise about Jackson Pollack until I saw one of his paintings in person at the Corcoran and was floored.

  • profile image

    Iphigenia 8 years ago

    Lovely hub - van gogh spent a couple of years in Provence where I live (he was at Arles then St Rémy) and the light and colours that he captured were among the things that drew to to first visit Provence years ago ... and now it's home !

  • profile image

    lscollison 8 years ago

    This brought tears to my eyes. I love Vincent Van Gogh, and have just returned from an all-too-brief art tour of Holland and Belgium, so I'm still swooning. And then I find this! Many thanks.

  • franciaonline profile image

    franciaonline 8 years ago from Philippines


    I love Van Gogh's "Starry Starry Night" and Don McLean's "Vincent". Thanks for this beautiful hub!

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks. Starry Night is definitely my favorite Van Gogh painting.

  • profile image

    Am I dead, yet? 8 years ago

    Awesome and amazing subject/content matter in this hub! I absolutely love V. Van Gogh's artwork! Thanks for adding some of his artwork here. 'a starry night' & 'Starry Night Over the Rhone' are two of my most favorite of his! I just dig the blue and the accents within the paintings, and looking ever so closely at the human images in the artwork, and trying to find something I might have missed before.  I can look at these for an eternity!

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks for the comments. I enjoyed looking at all the videos of Van Gogh on You Tube.

    You are probably right, Rochelle. I'm quite sure his paintings would have changed too if he had been a success while he lived.

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

    The world is thankful for Theo. Too bad Vincent never got the recognition he deserved during his lifetime, but he certainly had a unique talent and a genius that is appreciated even more today.

    Maybe if he had achieved financial and popular success in his time, his work would have lacked the emotional appeal that it projects.

    Seems rather ironic that his work is so familiar and valued now.

    Nice job.

  • B. Panciera profile image

    B. Panciera 8 years ago from Earth...Too much of the time!

    ****GREAT HUB! I LOVE the youtube clips!