Vincent Van Gogh: Starving Artist

One of the most famous painters of all time, Vincent Van Gogh was the epitome of the starving artist. He lived an impoverished life with little success including only ever selling one painting.



Vincent Van Gogh was the epitome of the starving artist — a term used to describe an artist who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork.


Van Gogh led a very difficult life. He is said to have suffered from poverty, depression, bipolar disorder, hallucinations and episodes of derangement as well as epilepsy. During one of these attacks, Van Gogh famously cut off his left earlobe. He committed suicide in 1890 at the young age of 37.


Van Gogh’s failures in love and life are well-known and well-documented. Only during the final years of his short life was Vincent a professional artist, and even then, a tortured one that was ridiculed by others. He was said to have no obvious artistic talent in his early years of life. Instead as the son of a pastor, he largely immersed himself in religion and had even decided to become a clergyman. However, he was not given a permanent position. He also attempted to be an art dealer.


His largest failure, however, was producing close to 900 paintings but constantly struggling in poverty and only selling one painting while alive.


During these dark times in his life, Van Gogh created what would become some of the most highly regarded post-impressionistic artwork in history. This type of romanticization of an artist’s pain leading to success is what created the stereotype of the starving artist.


Van Gogh’s closest relationship throughout his life was with his brother Theo, who would be his biggest supporter in his artistic endeavours. Their relationship was chronicled in a series of letters to one another throughout the years. Theo acted as a patron to his art for a decade, supporting him both financially and emotionally. The two Van Gogh brothers were so closely connected that shortly after the latter took his life, the former joined him in death.


After his death, Van Gogh’s sister-in-law Johanna, saw that his paintings were sold and eventually recognized. On March 17, 1901, seventy-one of his paintings were displayed in Paris.


Afterward, his fame continued to grow and in 1973, the Van Gogh Museum opened in Amsterdam, featuring more than two hundred of his paintings as well as five hundred drawings and written correspondence between Van Gogh and Theo.


Within a hundred years, Van Gogh would become famous, and his works would go on to be some of the most valuable in the world.

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