Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 — 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found). His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.
Van Gogh began to draw as a child, and he continued to draw throughout the years that led up to his decision to become an artist. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.
In March 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His work grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.
On 22 February 1890, Van Gogh suffered a new crisis that was “the starting point for one of the saddest episodes in a life already rife with sad events”. Vincent died in the evening, 29 hours after he apparently shot himself. Theo reported his brother’s last words as “The sadness will last forever.”
After his death, memorial exhibitions were mounted in Brussels, Paris, The Hague and Antwerp. In the early 20th century, there were retrospectives in Paris (1901 and 1905), and Amsterdam (1905), and important group exhibitions in Cologne (1912), New York (1913) and Berlin (1914). These had a noticeable impact on later generations of artists. By the mid 20th century Van Gogh was seen as one of the greatest and most recognizable painters in history. Together with those of Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh’s works are among the world’s most expensive paintings ever sold, as estimated from auctions and private sales.