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Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853, son of a Dutch Protestant pastor. He grew up near the parish cemetery where his still-born brother, also named Vincent,was buried.
From an early age, Vincent displayed a restless and moody personality which continued during his entire life. He took several paths during his early years, including, a salesman in an art gallery, a French tutor and theological student, but none quite suited him. Art became his passion.
Despite a life of near poverty and serious bouts of mental illness, (he once spent a full year in an asylum) van Gogh produced vividly rich paintings with his expressive use of color. His work represents the very model of expressionism, the notion of emotional spontaneity in painting. In roughly ten years time, he produced 800 paintings and a similar number of drawings. When not ill, he could produce a painting in a single day.
Biographers have called him "one of the world's loneliest souls," as much of his life was spent without friends or companions.
At one point, Vincent, while in Paris, met another painter named Paul Gauguin. Vincent convinced Paul to move in with him, however in less than two months they began to have major quarrels.
Perhaps the most famous incident in the life of van Gogh, occured when he sliced off part of his ear and gave it to a young prostitute named Rachel, in December of 1888. Much has been made of his extraordinary act.
Throughout his life, van Gogh had a close relationship with his brother Theo. In fact, the more than 700 letters which Vincent wrote to his brother, make up a remarkable record of the artist's life, his artistic output and his troubles. Whenever possible, Theo provided Vincent with money, supplies and moral support.
Unfortunately for Vincent, his art received very little attention during his lifetime, but his name and legacy are well-known now. It is believed he only sold one painting in his lifetime.
In the summer of 1890, Vincent van Gogh shot himself and died two days later. By January of 1891, his beloved brother Theo also died. Today, a large number of his works are on display at a museum dedicated to him in Amsterdam, Holland, which opened in 1973.