Was Vincent Van Gogh prominent in his lifetime or not?

OK, I’m confused. I went to an exhibit on the Neo-Impressionist portrait at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (fantastic, by the way!), and I saw this picture of Vincent Van Gogh on a contemporary magazine cover:


OTOH, I have heard that Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, and he committed suicide thinking he was a failure.

BUT he was clearly famous enough to appear on what seems to have been a major French magazine. And he still only sold one painting and felt like a failure? How do we square these disparate things?

Thanks for your help.

That cover appeared in 1891, about a year after his death. Maybe suicide was a good career move…

Also, he was fairly well known in Parisian art circles. It’s just among the general public he wasn’t known until well after his death.

Ah, I should have checked. But the magazine is called “Men of Today,” after all! (“Men of One Year Ago” was already taken, I guess…)

Unfortunately, he has set the pattern for all future wannabe artists; if everyone says your stuff is crap, you can’t paint, you have no talent, nobody is buying your shit … well, you are just like van Gogh. (so go jump off a bridge or shoot yourself!)

Moved to Cafe Society.

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It seemed that his career was just breaking (in a good way) when he offed himself. Or maybe those two kids did shoot him? I mean, how can a guy shoot himself and then they can’t find the gun?


Their argument that he didn’t have time to become famous after making his best works, before he killed himself, is a much better argument than that he sold two paintings. Odd that they focused on the latter rather than the former.

He did, at one point, have paying students that he was instructing.

I haven’t had time to read the article. I wonder if there may be some rather dubious wording going on in the piece. Yes, Van Gogh may in fact have only sold one painting in his lifetime. The reason for this is that it was Van Gogh’s brother selling the paintings. Vincent used to give his paintings to his brother to sell. His brother continually wrote to Vincent that the market for his work was poor. But as far as I understand a decent number of them did sell.

He had documented relationships with Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Daubigny, Corot and Daumier, most of whom likewise were more respected posthumously than during their careers. He was to 1880s artists what Big Star and Townes Van Zandt were to 1980s rock stars. Almost all of his paintings were done in the last decade of his life, and almost all of his great paintings were done in the last two years of it.

[Bolding mine]

I love this analogy!

I would add **Philip K. Dick **and **Jim Thompson **to the list of analogies, esp PKD - nutcase, obsessive artist who is unappreciated in their lifetime but goes on to have a huge influence in art after their death.

VVG’s brother Theo was an art dealer and they corresponded a ton about art and the business of art. To my knowledge, VVG maybe sold one painting during his life. So - he was NOT prominent. Getting featured in/on a magazine or two doesn’t qualify, esp if the mag is a small, insider publication (I have no clue how wide the readership was of the mag in question).

And we can really thank Theo’s wife Johanna for this. Theo died only six months after Vincent. Johanna picked up the reigns and had a knack for promotion, she really created the modern vision of Vincent as a super-star.

I know relatively little about his life other than his only selling one painting, his cutting off part of his ear (which some say he didn’t do), and his helping The Doctor fight an invisible killer chicken. How did he support himself? Or did his family support him?

Well we know that he painted future events, so he could have had a side-line in investing that he had to keep secret.

(Oh wait, that’s still just a Dr. Who thing. :cool: )

I think Vincent was constantly sending him money. He was probably very good at sponging off friends, too.

That was a pretty common gig for struggling artists. It’s not an indicator of fame or success - almost the opposite, really.