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Vincent van Gogh  

b. 1853 Zundert, The Netherlands, d. 1890 Auvers-sur-Oise, France
painter; draftsman

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"I can very well do without God both in my life and in my paintings, but I cannot, ill as I am, do without something which is greater than I, which is my life--the power to create."

--Vincent van Gogh

Art was Van Gogh's means of personal, spiritual redemption, and his voluminous letters to his devoted brother Theo, one of which is quoted here, offer profound insight into the artistic struggle.

Van Gogh became an artist in 1881. Although he studied briefly in Antwerp and Paris, he was largely self-taught. He ultimately chose to live in the country, and most of his paintings capture his deep affinity for nature. Theo, an art dealer, introduced Vincent to Paris's most advanced painters, and his work changed under the influences of Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The flatness of color and shape in Japanese woodcuts also inspired him.

Van Gogh's color expressed his emotions as he responded to the world. His insistence on color's expressive possibilities led him to develop a corresponding expressiveness in applying pigment. His brushstrokes of thick, opaque paint almost seem drawn. His often violently interacting colors and forms and strong expressive line influenced nearly every artistic movement that came after him: Symbolism, Fauvism, Expressionism, and beyond.

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