Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853 in Zundert in the Netherlands. He began working as an art dealer in the Hague, London and Paris, and then briefly was employed as a school teacher in England in 1876, in the seaside town of Ramsgate. Soon afterwards, reflecting his deep interest in Christianity, he became a preacher in a mining community in southern Belgium.
He finally decided to become an artist in 1880, at the age of 27. He often travelled, teaching himself to draw and paint and receiving financial support from his brother, Theo, who was an art dealer and very close to Vincent.
In 1886, Van Gogh joined his brother in Paris. Whilst he was there he met many artists including Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Pissarro and Gauguin, with whom he became friends. His style of painting became much lighter and brighter under the influence of Impressionism and he developed an interest in Japanese prints.
In 1888, after his metal health began to decline, Van Gogh moved to Provence in southern France and was enchanted with the colours that surrounded him. He set to work immediately, and painted many of his famous paintings during this time, including Café Terrace at Night, Wheat Field with Cypresses, Bedroom in Arles and Starry Night Over the Rhône. Hoping to start an artist's community at The Yellow House, where he lived, he invited Gauguin to join him and indeed painted some of his Sunflowers series to decorate Gauguin's room and welcome him. Unfortunately, with two such passionate and volatile personalities living together they soon began to quarrel, and one night, Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor. Deeply upset and full of remorse he then cut off part of his own ear.
Shortly afterwards, he was admitted to the asylum at Saint-Rèmy nearby and for the rest of his life was plagued with mental problems. Throughout this period, however, he continued to be incredibly creative and had extraordinary bursts of artistic intensity, producing many of the later masterpieces that he is now known for, including The Starry Night.
After leaving the asylum in 1890, he went to live in Auvers-sur-Oise, in northern France, and was under the care of his friend Dr Gachet for a short while, but sadly the mental instabilty and depression returned.
On 27 July 1890 Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest. He died two days later and was buried in the cemetery at Auvers.