Van Gogh, Paintings and Drawings: A Special Loan Exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, 1949-1950

Van Gogh, Paintings and Drawings: A Special Loan Exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, 1949-1950

Van Gogh, Paintings and Drawings: A Special Loan Exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, 1949-1950

Van Gogh, Paintings and Drawings: A Special Loan Exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, 1949-1950

Excerpt

The career of Vincent van Gogh is one of the shortest in the history of art. He was a painter for only ten years, of which more than half were devoted almost entirely to drawing.

He was born in 1853, and he killed himself when he was thirty-seven years old. His life can be broadly divided into two periods: the first, a period of bitter struggles, failures, and disappointments, when his difficult character, his personal views on life, and his highly original way of seeing were formed. The second, the period of fulfillment when he had mastered his art and was conscious of having done so.

His family was of pure Dutch stock and is recorded in Holland as far back as the sixteenth century. Among his ancestry there were artists and preachers. These two vocations, art and religion, were to dominate his life.

His father was a modest clergyman, lacking talent as a preacher but loved by his parishioners, the least successful of six brothers, among whom were a vice-admiral of the Dutch navy and three prominent art dealers. His mother was the daughter of a well-known bookbinder of The Hague. He seems to have inherited his timidity and his human warmth and generosity from his father. From his mother he took his energy, his obstinacy, and, perhaps, his talent as a writer.

Vincent was born in the village of Groot Zundert in the old Dutch province of Brabant. He was the oldest of six children, three boys and three girls. The early years of his youth in his father's parsonage were very happy, and later in his darkest moments they always came back to him. He was a charming and imaginative child who enjoyed playing with his sisters and brothers in the garden of the parsonage. But even at an early age he already loved to go off by himself and wander among the wheat fields, on the heath, and in the pine woods that surrounded the village. This sensitivity to the poetry of nature never left him.

His parents sent him away to school at a near-by village. Almost nothing is known, however, about his education, except that he must have acquired at this time his unusual taste for reading, which, in spite of his personal isolation, kept him aware of what was going on in the world.

When he was sixteen a profession was chosen for him. It was decided that he should become an art dealer, and his uncle Vincent got him a job in the firm of Goupil, of which he was a partner. This was one of the outstanding firms dealing with contem-

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