Vincent van Gogh was born in Groot Zundert, The Netherlands on 30 March 1853, his father was a minister. In 1869, he began working at an art dealership in The Hague, until he was dismissed from the London office in 1873. Later he worked as a schoolmaster in England (around 1876), before training for the ministry at Amsterdam University. After he failed to get a post in the Church, he went to live as an independent missionary among the Borinage miners.
Van Gogh was largely self-taught as an artist, although he received help from his cousin, Mauve. His first works were representations of the lives of the poor and farm workers, influenced by one of his artistic heroes, Millet. In 1886 He moved to Paris to live with his devoted brother, Theo. Theo was an art dealer and introduced him to Gauguin, Pissarro, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec.
In Paris, Van Gogh's style matured to include a more developed use of colour as well as the distinctive brushwork which may have been influenced by the ideas of the pointillist painters that he came into contact with. In 1888 he moved to Arles, in the south of France and was immediately struck by the hot reds and yellows of the Mediterranean. He increasingly used colour to represent his own moods. Gauguin joined him in Arles in October of 1888, but the visit was not a success. Van Gogh's mental condition was deteriorating and a argument between them led to the episode in which he cut off part of his ear.
In 1889, he interned himself at the St. Remy asylum. He continued to paint; the swirling, twisting direction of his brushstrokes during this period, often seem as symbolic of his mental state. He moved to Auvers, to be closer to Theo in 1890. Van Gogh threw himself into his work, painting himself into a frenzy for the 70 days prior to his death by suicide.