Though Vincent van Gogh’s time on Earth was brief, a mere 37 years (Dawe 30), he

began a new age of art, impressionism. His work has inspired people for more than a century

now, but Van Gogh would have never guessed it would. For in his lifetime he sold only one

painting, 1885’s The Potato Eaters (Dawe 5).

Van Gogh was born into a lower-class family in Groot Zundert, Netherlands on March 30,

1853 (Wallace 8). His birth occurred exactly one year after his brother, also named Vincent van

Gogh, was born stillborn (Wallace 9). As Van Gogh was growing up, however, he showed signs

of being troubled. During one incident he created a small elephant out of clay and a sketch of cat,

but when his parents praised him, he torn them apart (Wallace 9). When Van Gogh was 12 years

old, he was sent to a boarding school 15 miles away in Zevenbergen (Wallace 9). His parents

believed he was getting too “rough” with the local boys (Wallace 9). During Van Gogh’s time at

Zevenbergen, he loved to read (Wallace 10). He admired Shakespeare, but his favorite piece of

literature was Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. At age 16, Van Gogh left school and headed

to Goupil & Cie. at The Hague to deal paintings for his uncle (Wallace 10). Theo, his favorite

and closest sibling, came and joined Van Gogh at The Hague in 1872. Van Gogh transferred one

year later to the London Branch of Goupil’s, which was when he began to exchange his letters

with Theo (Wallace 11). After a brief love affair with his landlady’s daughter, he was again

transferred, this time to Paris (Wallace 11). While in Paris Vincent became increasingly careless

with his work. He was rude to customers, and thus in 1876 he was fired (Wallace 11). Van

Gogh went through numerous jobs during the next few years, including a Bible Study teacher, a

bookstore clerk and studied to be a clergyman, but gave it up in 1878. Van Gogh attempted to

become a minister, but the school did not accept him (Wallace 13). Disappointed, Van Gogh

headed to a coal mining region in Belgium called the Borniage. During his time here, Van Gogh

made the most important decision of his life, to become an artist (Dawe 30).

Van Gogh did not choose to become an artist because of his natural talent, he chose to

become an artist because that was the one way he felt he could express himself (Wallace 16).

Most of Van Gogh’s early sketches were of peasants and coal miners in the Borniage (Wallace

17). Van Gogh once said about his sketches of peasants in a letter to Theo, “Painting peasant life

is a serious thing and I should reproach myself if I did not try to make pictures which will arouse

serious thoughts” (Wallace 22). Van Gogh did realize that painting peasants was something that

most Dutch artists, would never consider. In another portion of a letter to Theo he said, “To

draw a peasant’s figure in action . . . is the very core of modern art (Wallace 23). Van Gogh

continued his artwork in a small studio in the Borniage for the next two years. While here he

self-taught himself many different techniques, and practiced by sketching and painting landscapes,

and of course peasants and peasant life. In one letter, Theo suggested that Van Gogh come and

live with him in Paris. He refused, but did decide that it was high time for a change of scenery

and he moved to a cheap hotel in Brussels in 1880 (Swerdlow 122). Theo, meanwhile, was a

successful businessman in Paris, and was making a great living art dealing. Van Gogh only stayed

in Brussels a few months, but it was at this time that Theo began to send money monthly to

Van Gogh. Brussels served as just another place to find models for his work, but after selling

nothing he decided to come back to his parents house at Etten (Wallace 30). While in Etten Van

Gogh continued his artwork, but after a short while he became romantically involved with his

first cousin, Kee Vos. Their relationship did not last too long, however. Van Gogh was too

possessive towards Kee, and she soon fled to her parents in Amsterdam. Van Gogh of course

followed, because he truly believed Kee was the love of his life. Kee’s parents