When Did Van Gogh Start Painting?

When it comes to the fine arts, one of the most evident trends I’ve noticed is that artists start young. Either their parents push them into it or they seem to have some inherent genius that begins to blossom at an early age. However, with Vincent Van Gogh, this was not the case.

Last week, a reader asked me, “When did Van Gogh start painting?” 

Van Gogh began painting in 1880 and was experimenting with oil paint by 1883. At the time, he was transitioning from his late-20s to his early-30s. Despite his late start, though, he quickly developed his skill through constant practice. 

Although Van Gogh started late and had a short-lived career as an artist, he produced over 2,000 works of art. In today’s post, I’m going to explain a little bit more about his life, when he started painting, and what sparked his interest in art. Let’s dive in, shall we? 

How Old Was Van Gogh When He Started Painting? 

Van Gogh had just turned 27 when he decided to pursue a full-time career as an artist in 1880. He started by attending an art school in the historic city of Brussels in Belgium. There, he learned basic art theory and had the chance to experiment for the first time with tools and canvas. 

His career as an artist was relatively short-lived, as he took his own life in 1890 shortly after his 37th birthday. The main reason for his posthumous fame was his extensive record of published letters and journal diaries, which gave the public an eye into the mind of a brilliant yet tortured artist. 

What Did Van Gogh Do Before He Started Painting? 

Van Gogh had an interesting career before he truly got into art. As the oldest son of a protestant preacher in the Netherlands (he wasn’t French, as many mistakenly believe), his parents had high expectations for him. So, in accordance with what he learned as a pastor’s son, he began his career in the church as a preacher and a missionary. 

During this time, he explored a number of churches and was exposed to a number of early Christian art pieces. This, in part, is what inspired him to start painting for the first time. After ending his career as a missionary, he had a brief stint as an art dealer, and a bookseller. 

What Inspired Van Gogh To Start Painting? 

Throughout his early life, Van Gogh was constantly exposed to art. This culminated during his career as an art dealer. He eventually quit the job, deciding that he would rather create his own art than sell somebody else’s. 

So, he attended an art school in Brussels, Belgium where he learned basic theory. After leaving the school, he moved back home to his father’s estate in the countryside. Here, he really honed his skill for painting landscapes and interpreting the human experience through art. 

Where Did Van Gogh’s Influence Come From? 

Van Gogh’s early influences came from working with fellow Dutch landscape painter, Anton Mauve. In 1886, though, Van Gogh moved to Paris, France. Here, he discovered some of the latest modern works, such as Japanese printing and Rembrandt’s impressionistic style

While in Paris, Van Gogh really honed his brush skills and created some of his greatest portraits and cityscapes. Today, many regard him as the first pioneer of post-impressionistic art (not modern art, as some believe). 

After a few years of living in the city, Vincent moved to the French countryside to get back in touch with nature. Here, he applied much of his newly-learned brush skills to his original interests of painting landscapes and close-up scenery. 

Unfortunately, the next few years would see his mental health sharply decline. After around a year of residing in a mental asylum, where he created his legendary Starry Night painting, he moved back to his father’s estate and he sadly took his own life

How Many Years Did Van Gogh Paint For? 

Van Gogh’s artistic career only lasted a little over 10 years due to his rapidly deteriorating mental health. However, in this short period of time, he was able to create over 2,100 works of art, including over 850 oil paintings and over 1,300 watercolors and sketches.

If you do the math, that’s averages out to around 210 pieces of art per year, a feat that many of today’s artists are still in awe of. 


If you think that you’re too old to start painting or chasing your artistic dream, I guarantee that you’re not! Vincent Van Gogh didn’t even start painting until he was 27 years old and managed to create some of the world’s most valuable and renowned works of art in his short 10-year career. Ultimately, your dedication to your craft is your only limit.