Happy birthday, Vincent van Gogh! The genius was born on this day in 1853. Here are a few interesting facts about his life you might already know or could be interested to find out:
1. Van Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life.
2. Vincent’s earliest career aspiration was to be a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church like his father.
3. There is some evidence that Van Gogh nibbled at his paints, and the eating of paints is possibly connected with his seizure around New Year 1890. In January 1890, after another one of Vincent’s seizures, Theo wrote to him saying "if you know that it is dangerous for you to have colours near you, why don’t you clear them away for a time, and make drawings?"
4. Van Gogh signed his paintings simply "Vincent", not “Vincent van Gogh” nor “Van Gogh”. In a letter to his brother Theo, written on 24 March 1888, he said that “in the future my name ought to be put in the catalogue as I sign it on the canvas, namely Vincent and not Van Gogh, for the simple reason that they do not know how to pronounce the latter name here.” (“Here” being Arles, in the south of France)
If you’ve wondered how you pronounce Van Gogh, remember it’s a Dutch surname, not French or English. So the “Gogh” is pronounced so it rhymes with the the Scottish “loch”. It’s not “goff” nor “go”.
5. When van Gogh died, his work was known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still. He only sold one painting during his lifetime.
6. Vincent is believed to have shot himself in a wheatfield in Auvers, France, although no gun was ever found. He did not die until 2 days later at the age of 37.
7. Vincent’s brother Theo died six months after Vincent and is buried next to him in Auvers, France.
8. Theor’s wife collected Vincent’s paintings and letters after his death and dedicated herself to getting his work the recognition it deserved.
Vincent van Gogh
Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy, 1887, oil on canvas, 50.5 × 60 cm, Art Institute of Chicago.