Known for his chaotic personal life and singular post-Impressionistic style of painting, artist Vincent van Gogh was born 163 years ago today, March 30, 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. Van Gogh would go on to spend most of his working life in France, where he struggled to sell paintings and became recognized by art historians as a great talent only years after his death. 

The son of a pastor, van Gogh did not decide he wanted to become an artist until he was in his mid-20s. He traveled, spending most of his time in Paris and the south of France, while teaching himself to paint and draw, and becoming friends with the likes of such contemporaries as Paul Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec and Camille Pissarro. "There is but one Paris, and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even — the French air clears up the brain and does good — a world of good," he said of the French capital.


While “Starry Night,” made in 1889, is perhaps the best known of van Gogh’s works, historians and curators are still discovering new images made by the painter. After many years of debate, experts confirmed in 2013 that Van Gogh did in fact create “Sunset at Montmajour” in 1888, a painting of a French pastoral scene that can be found at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The tortured artist once famously wrote in a letter to his brother Theo, “Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”


A struggling artist, he sold only one painting in his lifetime, and a lack of money for supplies led van Gogh to frequently paint over canvases, meaning many paintings have layers of other unknown paintings underneath them. “I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort — and disappointment and perseverance,” he wrote.

Van Gogh made dozens of self-portraits throughout his life, and they catalog his mood shifts throughout his life and up to his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890. 


"I exaggerate, I sometimes make changes to the subject, but still I don’t invent the whole of the painting; on the contrary, I find it ready-made — but to be untangled — in the real world,” he once said of his style.