A Big Hollywood Birthday Sheds More Light on the Life of Vincent Van Gogh

US History |

On December 16, 2016, famed actor Kirk Douglas will reach the amazing age of 100. A list of Douglas’ films includes one made in 1956, Lust for Life. In that movie Douglas portrayed the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh.

Viewers of that film will not learn about Van Gogh’s years as a teen and a young adult. He did not follow a direct path to his final career. Yet his uncle did get him a training position at an art dealership. 

Vincent began his training at the age of 16. He worked with trainers in London and Paris. Then 44 years after entering that first position, Vincent was fired.

After that, he tried teaching in England, before returning to his homeland, the Netherlands. There he worked at a bookstore for a short time. In 1878 he became a preacher in one of Belgium’s mining districts. That experience provided Vincent with the chance to sketch peasants and some of the surrounding landscape.

Ultimately, Vincent Van Gogh chose to pursue the life of an artist. He returned to his home and produced many artistic works. Unfortunately, he sold few of his paintings and drawings, so he had to rely on the financial help provided by his brother, Theo.

By 1886 Vincent had joined Theo in Paris. There the budding artist became familiar with the techniques and works of the Impressionists and the Neo-Impressionists. Two years after arriving in Paris, Vincent moved to the town of Arles in southern France. While in Arles, Van Gogh extended an invitation to his friend and fellow artist, Paul Gauguin.

Gauguin accepted Vincent’s invitation. At first, the two got along well for a while, then they began to feud. Their feuding led to the creation of two stories. Both of those stories claim to offer some insight into why Van Gogh lost one of his ears.

According to one story, Van Gogh used a razor blade to remove his own ear, after he had argued with his friend. The other story focused on Gauguin’s skilled handling of a saber. That focus forms the basis for the claim that an angry Gauguin sliced off his friend’s ear. According to this second tale, Vincent refused to reveal the real facts, in order to preserve his friend’s reputation. 

In 1884, Van Gogh chose to enter St. Paul de Mausole, an institution for the mentally ill. While in that same institution, he painted gardens and the surrounding hills, fields and forests. He completed his last painting on July 27, 1890. The mystery surrounding what happened next motivated the producers in Hollywood to make a film.

Some say that Vincent Van Gogh shot himself and then made his way back to the inn, where he died. Others claim that the artist became the target of a young boy with a gun. The wound did not kill him right away, and he managed to find his way to his room in the nearby inn. Both accounts show a tragic life ending tragically, one that seemed like the right subject for a movie. For that reason, fans of Kirk Douglas learned at least a few facts about the life of Vincent Van Gogh. 

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Charlie Rodriguez


Charlie is one of the most talented individuals we have here. Receiving his degree in International Relations from George Washington University, Charlie has been a vital team member when it comes to stories from the international realm. His thoroughness and in-depth analysis is what makes our reader coming back for more.