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 support it.
In 1869, Vincent van Gogh joined the firm Goupil & Cie., a firm of art dealers in The Hague. The van Gogh family had long been associated with the art world. Vincent's uncles, Cornelis ("Uncle Cor") and Vincent ("Uncle Cent"), were art dealers. His younger brother, Theo, spent his adult life working as an art dealer and, as a result, had a tremendous influence on Vincent's later career as an artist. Vincent was relatively successful as an art dealer and stayed with Goupil & Cie. for seven more years.
In 1873, he was transferred to the London branch of the company and quickly became in love with the cultural climate of England. In late August, Vincent moved to 87 Hackford Road and boarded with Ursula Loyer and her daughter Eugenie. Vincent is said to have been romantically interested in Eugenie, but many early biographers mistakenly misname Eugenie for her mother, Ursula. To add to the decades-long confusion over the names, recent evidence suggests that Vincent wasn't in love with Eugenie at all, but rather a Dutch woman named Caroline Haanebeek. The truth remains inconclusive.
By the age of 27, van Gogh had been in turn a salesman in an art gallery, a French tutor, a theological student, and an evangelist among the miners at Wasmes in Belgium. Vincent felt a strong emotional attachment to the miners. He sympathized with their dreadful working conditions and did his best, as their spiritual leader, to ease the burden of their lives. These early works evidence were dark and serious, sometimes crude. Unfortunately, this unselfish desire would reach somewhat obsessive proportions when Vincent began to give away most of his food and clothing to the poverty-stricken people under his care. Despite Vincent's noble intentions, representatives of the Church strongly disapproved of van Gogh's somberness and dismissed him from his post in July. Refusing to leave the area, van Gogh moved to an adjacent village, Cuesmes, and remained there in abject poverty. For the next year, Vincent struggled to live from day to day and, though not able to help the village people in any official capacity as a clergyman, he nonetheless chose to remain a member of their community. One day...