My Painting Life

I began to draw as a child, and continued to draw throughout the years that led up to my decision to become an artist. I did not begin painting until my late twenties, completing many of my best-known works during the last two years of my life. In just over a decade, I produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. My work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.

I spent my early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers, travelling between The Hague, London and Paris, after which I taught for a time in England. One of my early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 I worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where I began to sketch people from the local community. In 1885, I painted my first major work The Potato Eaters. My palette at the time consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished my later work. In March 1886, I moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, I moved to the south of France and was impacted by the strong sunlight I found there. My work has grown brighter in color, and I've developed the unique and highly recognizable style that has become fully realized during my stay in Arles.