IrisesVincent van Gogh, 1889
Vincent van Gogh’s story has come to epitomise romantic notions about the ‘troubled genius’, cruelly ignored during their own lifetime. After a highly religious upbringing, he decided that Art was his true spiritual vocation. His early work was marked by sombre coloring and an earnest Social Realism. However, his paintings became more radiant and colorful after encountering Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism on a trip to Paris. Rather than imitate appearances, he sought to express his deepest feelings through color and vigorous impasto brushstrokes. It was during his time in Arles that he painted his Sunflowers and, perhaps most famously, cut off his ear following a quarrel with Gauguin. In ten years he produced almost 900 paintings, of which he sold only one. Plagued by depression, he died in 1890 after shooting himself in the chest. His posthumous reputation soared almost overnight, whilst his impact upon 20th-century painting was arguably without equal.