BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in October 2006We've left it here for reference.More information

19 April 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Simon Schama's, Power of Art

BBC Homepage
BBC Arts

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 

Van Gogh

 


Biography

Full Name:

Vincent Willem Van Gogh

Born:

1853

Died:

1890


Born in Groot-Zundert, The Netherlands, Van Gogh spent his early life as an art dealer, teacher and preacher in England, Holland and Belgium. His period as an artist began in 1881 when he chose to study art in Brussels, starting with watercolours and moving quickly on to oils. The French countryside was a major influence on his life and his early work was dominated by sombre, earthy colours depicting peasant workers, the most famous of which is The Potato Eaters, 1885.

It was during Van Gogh's studies in Paris (1886-8) that he developed the individual style of brushwork and use of colour that made his name. In 1888 he moved to Arles where the Provençal landscape provided his best-known subject matter. However, it also marked the start of his mental crisis following an argument with his contemporary Paul Gauguin. Van Gogh was committed to a mental asylum in 1889 where he continued to paint, but he committed suicide in 1890.


Simon Schama on Van Gogh


"Vincent's passionate belief was that people wouldn't just see his pictures, but would feel the rush of life in them; that by the force of his brush and dazzling colour they'd experience those fields, faces and flowers in ways that nothing more polite or literal could ever convey.

His art would reclaim what had once belonged to religion - consolation for our mortality through the relish of the gift of life. It wasn't the art crowd he was after; he wanted was to open the eyes and the hearts of everyone who saw his paintings. I feel he got what he wanted.

So what are we looking at with this painting? Thereís suffocation, but elation too. The crows might be coming at us, but equally they might be flying away, demons gone as we immerse ourselves in the power of nature. It's a massive wall of writhing brilliant paint, in which the colour itself seems to tremble and pulse and sway."



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy