Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist. His paintings and drawings include some of the world's best known, most popular and most expensive pieces. Van Gogh spent his early adult life working for a firm of art dealers. After a brief spell as a teacher, he became a missionary worker in a very poor mining region. He did not embark upon a career as an artist until 1880. Initially, van Gogh worked only with sombre colours, until he encountered Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism in Paris. He incorporated their brighter colours and style of painting into a uniquely recognizable style, which was fully developed during the time he spent at Arles, France. He produced more than 2,000 works, including around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches, during the last ten years of his life. Most of his best-known works were produced in the final two years of his life, during which time he cut off part of his left ear following a breakdown in his friendship with Paul Gauguin. After this he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide.
The central figure in Van Gogh's life was his brother Theo, who continually and selflessly provided financial support. Their lifelong friendship is documented in numerous letters they exchanged from August 1872 onwards. Van Gogh is a pioneer of what came to be known as Expressionism. He had an enormous influence on 20th century art, especially on the Fauves and German Expressionists.