The son of a Dutch minister, Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 . He then took up painting around 1880 after working as an art dealer, a teacher and a missionary. He worked prodigiously and was concentrating particularly on scenes of peasant life.
Van Gogh studied in Paris where he met Toulouse-Lautrec and Emile Bernard. There he absorbed Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism. Combined with his admiration for Japanese prints, it encouraged him to adopt an increasingly brilliant palette and dramatic technique. Most of all, he was able to create the more strongly patterned compositions which made him, along with Cezanne and Gauguin, the greatest of the Post-Impressionist artists.
In February 1888, Van Gogh moved to Provence with the intention of establishing a colony of painters. Living in poverty, he painted over 200 canvases in 15 months but sold none of them. His mental health had always been suspect (he cut off part of his left ear during an argument with Gauguin). In December, he suffered a breakdown, subsequently spending a year living in the hospital at St Remy.
After leaving the hospital van Gogh moved to Auvers in Northern France where he killed himself in July 1890. He sold only one painting during his lifetime.