Vincent van Gogh in Arles
It's easy to forget that Vincent van Gogh was only 37 when he died, as he appears much older in some of his self-portraits. Born in 1853, the Dutch painter arrived in Arles in 1888 after living in Paris with his younger brother Theo, an art dealer who financially supported Vincent from his own modest income. In Paris he had become acquainted with seminal artists Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin.
Revelling in Arles' intense light and bright colours, Van Gogh painted with a burning fervour, unfazed by howling mistral winds. During a mistral he would kneel on his canvases and paint horizontally, or lash his easel to iron stakes driven deep into the ground. He sent paintings to Theo for him to try to sell, and dreamed of founding an artists colony in Arles, but only Gauguin accepted his invitation. Their differing artistic approaches (Gauguin believed in painting from imagination, Van Gogh in painting what he saw) and artistic temperaments came to a head with the argument in December 1888 that led to Van Gogh lopping off part of his own ear.
In May 1889 Van Gogh voluntarily entered an asylum, Monastère St-Paul de Mausole in St-Rémy de Provence. During his one year, one week and one day's confinement he painted 150-odd canvases, including masterpieces like Starry Night (not to be confused with Starry Night over the Rhône, painted in Arles).
In February 1890 Van Gogh's Arles-painted work The Red Vines (1888) was bought by Anne Boch, sister of his friend Eugene Boch, for 400 francs (around €50 today) – the only painting he sold in his lifetime. It now hangs in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.
On 16 May 1890 Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, just outside Paris, to be closer to Theo. But on 27 July that year he shot himself and died two days later, with Theo at his side. Theo subsequently had a breakdown, was committed and died, aged 33, just six months after Vincent. Less than a decade later, Van Gogh's talent started to achieve recognition, with major museums acquiring his work.