Dutch painter of landscapes, figures and still life. Born at Groot-Zundert, son of a parson. Entered the firm of Goupil, art dealers at The Hague 1869, was transferred to the London branch 1873 and to Paris 1875. Dismissed 1876. Felt a vocation for the church and began to study theology, but gave this up; volunteered to work as a preacher among the miners of the Borinage. After dismissal from this also, began to draw seriously 1880. Influenced by the artists of the Hague School and English illustrators. Lived at Brussels, The Hague, Nuenen, Antwerp. Was encouraged by Anton Mauve to make his first watercolours and oils 1881-2. Painted peasant subjects and landscapes in sombre, earthy colours. Moved to Paris in 1886 to join his brother Theo and entered the Atelier Cormon; met Toulouse-Lautrec and Bernard. Influenced by Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism and Japanese prints. In 1888 moved to Arles where he attained his fully mature style. Joined by Gauguin October-December 1888, but violent arguments between them led to his first mental crisis (when he cut off his own ear) and Gauguin's departure. Entered the asylum at St Rémy 1889. Long periods of lucidity followed by violent attacks. Moved May 1890 to Auvers-sur-Oise under the care of Dr Gachet. Died there by suicide two months later.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.290