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15 Starry Vincent Van Gogh Facts

How much do you know about famous artist Vincent Van Gogh? Here are 15 fun facts all about his life, work and more!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  November 8th 2023

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most famous artists ever! There's no way you haven't seen one of his paintings some where, like Sunflowers and Starry Night! But how much do you really know about the man who created such iconic art? We've put together 15 starry Vincent Van Gogh facts for art lovers everywhere to learn more about Van Gogh and his life. Find out where he was from, how to pronounce his name, and how many paintings he sold during his life time (Clue - not a lot!). And if you liked these history facts, we've got more here! How about these fun facts all about scientist Charles Darwin? Or maybe you want to know more about Albert Einstein? You might even like these King Charles II facts!

1. He Was From The Netherlands

We often associated Van Gogh with France, where he lived and worked for much of his life, but he's actually from the Netherlands, where he was born in 1853. Today, there is a Vincent Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, where you can see some of his most famous paintings, including Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters and his self portraits.

2. He Had Lots of Different Jobs

Van Gogh didn't settle on being a painter until he was in his mid 20s! In fact, he didn't paint at all until he was 27! Before that, he was a preacher, an art dealer and a school teacher. Once he got fired from his job, he decided to pursue art as a full time career. He created over 900 paintings in just ten years, making him one of the most prolific artists ever.

3. He Lived in the UK For a Time

Yes, Van Gogh once lived in Britain! In 1873 he went to live in London and work for some art dealers. He later described it as one of the happiest periods of his life. However, he later fell out with his bosses in 1876 and moved to Paris.

4. It's Not Pronounced 'Van Go'

You might have heard many pronunciations of Van Gogh's name, including 'Van Goff' and the American 'Van Go'. But, in Dutch, it's actually pronounced a bit like 'Van Gokh', sort of like 'Coke' but with a soft 'ch' sound of the end, like 'Loch'. Confused? No wonder people stick to 'Van Goff'!

5. He Was Inspired by a Group Called the Impressionists

Van Gogh's art style didn't come out of nowhere - he was greatly influenced by other artists and trends at the time, particularly the Impressionists. The Impressionists wanted to paint their subjects essence and feeling, not simply what their eyes saw, and used lots of colour and brush techniques to achieve this. Artists like Toulouse Lautrec, Monet and Renoir were all famous Impressionists. Van Gogh's style is often described as 'post-impressionist'.

6. He Struggled With His Mental Health All His Life

Sadly, one of the reasons Van Gogh is best remembered today is his struggles with mental health. Van Gogh suffered from depression for much of his life, and many of his most famous paintings were created during his stays in asylums and hospitals. Mental health was a taboo subject in the 19th century, and Van Gogh often felt isolated and misunderstood because of his illness.

7. He Painted Ordinary People

One of the reasons Van Gogh painted so many landscapes and self portraits was that he was too poor to pay his sitters. Van Gogh often painted churches, houses, people at work or eating in their houses. This gives us a glimpse into what rural peasant life was like in France in the 19th century, as well as a feeling of connection to the sitters.

8. He Was Influenced By Japanese Art

Many of Van Gogh's works incorporate Japanese elements, including screen printing, composition and use of colour. Van Gogh was greatly influenced by Japanese art, which was hugely popular in the 19th century, especially in places like the Netherlands, who had strong trade links to Japan. This influence helped Van Gogh's work look more modern and ground-breaking.

9. He Was Famous For His Selfies

Van Gogh is perhaps best known, besides his sunflower paintings, for his self portraits. Although he wasn't the first artist in history to paint himself, he is possibly one of the most famous. As we mentioned, he often painted himself because it was cheaper than hiring a model, but his self portraits are also fascinating because they reveal Van Goghs emotions and his mental state, including the self-portrait with a bandaged ear, made after he partially cut his own ear off.

10. His Brother Theo Was His Biggest Supporter

Sadly, Van Gogh was not a very successful artist in his own lifetime. As well as his mental health, he also had money struggles, and the support of his brother Theo was one of the things that helped to keep him going during tough times. In fact, without Theo's support, it's unlikely we would have any Van Gogh paintings today at all!

11. He Might Have Only Sold One Painting

Despite producing hundreds of paintings in a very short time, apparently only one of them, The Red Vineyard ever sold during his lifetime. Today, his paintings rank among some of the most expensive and prized in the world, including Portrait of Dr Paul Gachet, which went for about $180 million (in todays money). Most of his other paintings also sell for millions.

12. Many of His Paintings Are Missing

Even though today we have access to many of Van Gogh's beautiful artworks, there are some that are missing. These paintings were often stolen by the Nazis during the second world war, and many have yet to resurface.

13. He Loved Painting in the Night Time

Van Gogh's night scenes are perhaps some of his most famous today, including Starry Night and The Night Café. Van Gogh believed the night sky was more beautiful than the day, even though it was harder to paint. He would often stick candles in the brim of his hat so he could see what he was doing whilst painting at night!

14. His Death is a Bit of a Mystery

Van Gogh was attended by doctors on the 27th July, 1890, after he apparently shot himself in the chest with his revolver. He died two days later. However, some people think that Van Gogh did not shoot himself, but that a local boy was the actual culprit, shooting Van Gogh by accident. The truth is we'll never know for sure.

15. He is One of the Most Famous Artists in the World

Although Van Gogh had a very hard life and little success as an artist, he is now one of the most popular and famous artists who ever lived. As well as his paintings selling for millions of pounds, his artwork has been reproduced thousands of times, and over a quarter of a million people visit his museum in Amsterdam every year. He's also been the inspiration for books, plays, movies and songs, and actors such as John Hurt, Tony Curran and Benedict Cumberbatch have all portrayed him on screen.