Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 and grew up in the southern Netherlands, where his father was a vicar. An apprenticeship at an art dealership led him to Paris and London. Uninspired by the business world and deeply religious, he decided to become a teacher in England and later a lay preacher and missionary among coal miners in Belgium. Gaining no fulfillment in any of these professions, he finally found his vocation in art ‒ relatively late in life, when he was 27.
Van Gogh was largely self-taught and only briefly attended the art academy in Antwerp. His earliest paintings are sombre, earth-toned studies of landscapes and peasants of his home country. With his move to Paris in 1886, he became increasingly influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, Impressionism and Symbolism, and his palette changed to much brighter, complementary colours.
In 1888 Van Gogh settled in Arles, Provence, where Gauguin joined him for a while. After two months of working side by side, their personalities clashed. Gauguin left, and Van Gogh suffered a nervous breakdown. He committed himself to a sanitarium in St.-Rémy, still working feverishly, whenever he was capable. After a year, he moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, a small town on the outskirts of Paris, in order to be closer to his brother Théo, who had been his unwavering support throughout his life. In July 1890 Van Gogh died there of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Although his art was not widely appreciated by his contemporaries, Van Gogh is today one of the best known artists of all time, celebrated for his expressive and sensitive use of radiant colours and his vigorous application of paint.