Vincent van Gogh- The Myth and the Man

Vincent van Gogh was only 37 years of age when he died. He is often considered to be a paradox of unfortunate sadness and extreme passion as far as his art goes. While he sadly did not live long enough to see the extent of his legacy and only sold one painting during his lifetime, he is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists ever to live.

It is a shame Vincent did not live to see his legacy – which includes his works now being some of the most expensive in the world- Vincent van Gogh still lives on in the works that others have preserved for him. Here are some interesting facts you probably did not know about the ‘crazed artist with only one ear’:

Early painting by Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh’s early painting.

He painted almost 900 paintings in 10 years

Until van Gogh was 27, he had explored several jobs – he’d been a lay minister, teacher, missionary, bookseller, and art dealer, to name a few! Why he gave up these career endeavors has never been fully understood. But by the time he was 27, he abandoned these careers and decided to focus all his energy on painting and drawing. Once he was painting and making art, it seemed like he was unable to stop himself. In that move, Vincent van Gogh had found the one thing he loved and wanted to do- make art.

Over the next ten years, van Gogh created as many as 900 paintings, including nearly 50 self-portraits. As if that was not amazing enough, van Gogh also created over 1,100 works on paper. This level of proficiency means van Gogh was making a new piece of artwork every 36 hours on average. It is truly mind-blowing and inspirational how much he achieved in such a short time. This is even more evident when you realize what all was going on in life that he was struggling with on a daily basis.

Vincent van Gogh lived with mental illness throughout his life

Most people know Vincent van Gogh suffered from some sort of mental health issue, though a specific diagnosis has never been provided. What is that he often struggled with hallucinations, depression, and seizures that were severe at times. Many modern-day psychiatrists have offered theories that commonly include schizophrenia, hypergraphia, temporal lobe epilepsy, bipolar disorder, syphilis, or traumatic brain injury of some kind. It is also quite possible that there was not one single issue and that van Gogh, unfortunately, suffered from multiple mental and health issues.

Vincent van Gogh spent his adult life in poverty and had a terrible habit of chain-smoking cigarettes nearly nonstop. He did not sleep well and spent much of his adult life surviving on cheap food and hardly any of it when he did remember to eat. Vincent’s diet consisted mainly of bread and coffee, and he drank nearly as much as he smoked. His brother, who was Vincent’s biggest fan and supporter, often gave him money to help him, but van Gogh, obsessed with his art, used the funds for his art, finding more joy and satisfaction in art than he did in eating.

His nickname was ‘The Redheaded Madman’

As van Gogh’s mental health deteriorated and the hallucinations and delusions worsened, he gained the unwanted attention of neighbors who began to notice his railing and odd behavior. They were so afraid of him that they nicknamed him the “le fou roux” (The Redheaded Madman). They also got together and rallied against van Gogh and got the police to evict Vincent from his home permanently, and he once again ended up in an insane asylum hospital.

In fact, it was while he was in one of these asylums that he completed his most famous work: ‘Starry Night’. What makes this painting so memorable and unique is that it is actually a collection of views throughout the seasons. It combines day and night time views, spring, and summer, and various weather conditions, all into one painting. Ironically, Vincent van Gogh was never thrilled with the painting and saw it as a failure during his lifetime.

Vincent van Gogh painting
“Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

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