This Dutch painter was born in the Netherlands, on 30th March 1853 and though he desperately wanted to follow his father, a Protestant Minister, into the Church, on leaving school in 1869 he entered a firm of art dealers. He traveled on company business to both London & Paris, but was not really cut out for the work and was sacked in 1876. At first he came to England to work as a schoolteacher but returned to the Netherlands to study religion. He became an evangelist to a mining district in Belgium but his contract was not renewed because of his strong views and moved back to the Netherlands. Around 1881 his interest in art was reawakened, although mainly self taught he modeled his work on prints of two artists - Jules Breton and Jean-François Millet. It took a while for van Gogh to develop his own original technique and style. He was close to his bother Theo who help him financially. He fell out with his father in 1881 when he moved to the Hague, where he took some lessons from a relative - Anton Mauve. While in the Hague he lived with Sien Hoornik, a laundress and part time prostitute. He often used Sien as a life model for his figure drawings including the nude 'Sorrow' drawn in 1882. He separated from Sien in 1883 and after a brief period in the desolate northern part of the Netherlands he moved back to stay with his parents who were now living near Eindhoven- his The Potato-Eaters (1885) dates form this period.
In 1886 van Gogh moved to Paris to stay with brother Theo who was acting as agent for Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. Their colourful, short brushstoke style influenced van Gogh as seen in his self portraits of the period. He as also influenced by the clear lines and strong flat colours of Japanese prints and avant-garde painters such as Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin.
In 1888 he moved to Arles, in Provence, where he started the series of sunflower paintings. His attempt to form a community of artists with Gauguin ended with van Gogh cutting off part of his ear. This was the first really public sign of his deteriorating mental health. In May 1889 he became a voluntary patient in a mental asylum. Subsequently, between periods of poor mental health, he was at his most prolific. Irises and Starry Night are two of his famous painting of this period. One of his last paintings was Crows in a Wheatfield. Van Gogh shot himself on 27th July 1890, during a bout of depression - he died two days later.