Van Gogh: How the Post-Impressionist’s Work Evolved During His Short Life

The Yellow House

In Arles, Van Gogh's paintings became even more colorful and expressive. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and bathed in the sun, Arles seemed like an artist's paradise to Van Gogh. Thus, he dreamt up the idea of a shared studio where he and his contemporaries could paint, and rented several rooms in the “Yellow House” to serve this purpose.

Vincent Van Gogh Paintings Van Gogh Life Van Gogh Bio

“The Yellow House” (1888) (Photo: Google Arts & Culture via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Fellow Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin joined Van Gogh in the Yellow House, intending to collaborate. However, their working relationship was short-lived. After a string of disagreements, Gauguin decided to move out, prompting the increasingly mentally unstable Van Gogh to cut off part of his own ear with a knife.

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“Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear” (1889) (Photo: WebMuseum via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)



Van Gogh was admitted to a hospital in Arles the next morning. While he was discharged just a few days later, he recognized the state of his mental health and eventually checked himself into a mental health facility in the nearby Saint-Rémy-de-Provence commune.

While committed, he resumed his artistic practice, acquiring an extra room as an artist's studio and producing 150 paintings. Eventually, these pieces would be compiled into the Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Rémy series, which features important works like Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear and The Starry Nighta nocturnal landscape painted through his “iron-barred window.”

Vincent Van Gogh Paintings Van Gogh Life Van Gogh Bio

“The Starry Night” (1889) (Photo: Google Arts & Culture via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Ironically, it was during Van Gogh's hospitalization that his work began receiving some recognition: six of his paintings were exhibited in Belgium, and 10 in Paris. “Your paintings are well placed and look very well,” Theo told Vincent about his work in Paris. “Many people came up to ask me to give you their compliments. Gauguin said that your paintings are the key to the exhibition.”

Shortly after this success, Van Gogh left the hospital and moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, a suburb of Paris.

Final Days

During the last two months of his life, Van Gogh stayed at the Auberge Ravoux, an inn in Auvers-sur-Oise, where he produced over 80 paintings and 60 sketches. Though he seemed to be making strides as a painter, he remained plagued with financial woes, which undoubtedly contributed to his unsteady mental state.

On July 27, 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in a wheat field—the setting of his haunting final painting. He died two days later.

Vincent Van Gogh Paintings Van Gogh Life Van Gogh Bio

“Wheatfield with Crows” (1890) (Photo: Google Arts & Culture via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)



A few decades after his death, Van Gogh's 850 paintings and 1,300 drawings reached international acclaim. Today, he remains one of the most important figures in the entire history of art, celebrated for both his artistic practice and his admirable approach to life.

“If only we try to live sincerely,” he told Theo in 1878, “it will go well with us, even though we are certain to experience real sorrow, and great disappointments, and also will probably commit great faults and do wrong things, but it certainly is true, that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.”

The best selfie ever ?

Related Articles:

The Evolution of Picasso’s Painting Style and What Each Artistic Choice Represents

How Female Painter Mary Cassatt Became an Important Impressionist Figure

Why Post-Impressionist Painter Paul Cézanne Is Known as the “Father of Modern Art”

Van Gogh Museum Puts Nearly 1,000 Paintings and Drawings Online

Cute and Quirky Van Gogh Action Figure Comes with Tiny Detachable Ear

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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