Why Is Van Gogh Famous?

No matter whether you attended art school or barely passed your high school art class, the chances are that you know who Vincent Van Gogh was. He was a famous impressionist-era painter and the one who painted the famous Starry Night, one of the world’s most valuable paintings.

But why is Van Gogh famous? 

Van Gogh is famous for his contribution to and creation of the post-impressionist style that combined aspects of early impressionist painting with detailed brush strokes and attention to detail. This, in combination with the fact that his letters were posthumously published after his death, led to his eventual fame. 

In today’s post, I’m going to outline some of the key reasons why Van Gogh was famous and why he’s still regarded as one of the greatest artists of the past few hundred years. Let’s take a look into the life and work of a troubled artist, shall we? 

Key Reasons Why Van Gogh Is A Famous Artist

Alright, so there’s no denying that Van Gogh is famous. That being said, he wasn’t always a famous artist. Unlike Leonarda Da Vinci (or even some of his own contemporaries), Van Gogh was kind of a “nobody” during his life. 

Although he achieved some early financial success as a traveling art dealer, he eventually gave it all up after being rejected by the one girl he ever fell for. He became a missionary, gave away all of his belongings, and then was rejected by his own church for being “too Christian.” 

Sounds like a pretty dismal life, right? 

His constant rejection, no matter where he went or what he did, was part of what contributed to much of his depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety. 

His pained life aside, though, Van Gogh remains one of the most famous artists to have ever lived by today’s standards. Here’s why Van Gogh is so famous. 

He Created Post-Impressionism

During his time in France studying as an artist, Van Gogh studied the works of Rembrandt (a famous impressionist painter) along with other impressionists. However, he took impressionism one step further, really focusing on elaborate brush strokes and adding true emotion to his artwork. 

Although modern art came along after Van Gogh’s death, he arguably created the post-impressionist movement that came between impressionism and modern art. This movement arose out of Paris after his death and was inspired by his works such as Starry Night. It focused on thick brush strokes, heavy application of paint, and vibrant use of colors

He Produced Over 2,100 Pieces Of Art

Most people wouldn’t believe that it’s possible to create over 2,000 works of art in under a decade… However, Van Gogh managed to produce over 2,100 works of art (including over 860 oil paintings) from the time when he started painting in 1880 to the time when he died in 1890. 

If you know anything about oil paintings, then you’ll know that they can often take days or even weeks to finish. So the fact that he was able to make that many paintings meant that he was often simultaneously working on several works of art at once. This relentless dedication to his craft meant that his art was able to spread around the world well after his death. 

He Cut Off His Own Ear

It’s hard to be a famous artist without having at least a couple of crazy stories told about you… However, Van Gogh definitely has one of the strangest stories. 

In 1887, after years of living in Paris and laying down the foundation for the post-impressionist movement, Van Gogh moved to the French countryside to find peace. However, he only found more depression as his mental health began to slip. 

One night, he had a manic episode in which he hallucinated that a friend of his was chasing him with a sword. It ended in him cutting off his own ear and blaming his friend for it. After coming back to reality, he admitted that he had cut off his own ear, and admitted himself to an institution for a year. He stayed there before killing himself two years later while staying with his father. 

Van Gogh Was Involved In French Society

Although Van Gogh himself was not French, he spent much of his artistic career in Paris. Here, he was able to distribute his works and make somewhat of a name for himself (even if he never actually became famous). His involvement in French culture and art was arguably what gave his work great validity after his ultimate death. 


Although Van Gogh never got to experience fame during his lifetime and only sold two paintings, he’s since become one of the most famous artists to ever live. His Starry Night painting is worth $100 million, making it one of the most expensive paintings on this planet.