Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter, whose work represents the archetype of expressionism, the idea of emotional spontaneity in painting. Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, son of a Dutch Protestant pastor. Van Gogh's birth came one year to the day after his mother gave birth to a first, stillborn child; also named Vincent. There has been much speculation about Vincent van Gogh suffering later psychological trauma as a result of being a "replacement child" and having a deceased brother with the same name and same birth date. Early in life, he displayed a moody, restless character that was to spoil his every pursuit. This theory remains unproven, however, and there is no actual historical evidence to
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The Potato Eaters is acknowledged to be Vincent van Gogh's first true masterpiece and he was encouraged by the outcome. Although angered and upset by any criticism of the work (Vincent's friend and fellow artist, Anthon van Rappard (1858-1892), disliked the work and his comments would prompt Vincent to end their friendship), Vincent was pleased with the result and then began a new, more confident and technically accomplished stage of his career.
In 1886, van Gogh went to Paris to live with his brother, Theo. Influenced by the work of his brother, the impressionists, and by the work of such Japanese printmakers as Hiroshige and Hokusai, van Gogh began to experiment with current techniques. Van Gogh began to acquire a substantial collection of Japanese woodblock prints (now in the collection of the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and his paintings during this time (such as The Portrait of Pere Tanguy) would reflect both the vibrant use of color favored by the Impressionists, and distinct Japanese overtones. Although Van Gogh only ever produced three copies of Japanese paintings, the Japanese influence on his art would be evident in subtle form throughout the rest of his life. Later, he adopted the brilliant hues found in the paintings of the French artists Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat.
1887 in Paris marked another year in which Vincent evolved as an artist, but it also took its toll on him, both emotionally and physically.