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Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on twentieth-century art. Though van Gogh began to draw as a child, he did not begin to paint until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works (including The Starry Night) during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His oeuvre comprises portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, and still lives. In 1886, van Gogh moved to Paris and underwent a significant transformation when confronted with the works of Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists. Famously, van Gogh lived out the remainder of his life in the south of France, where he eventually succumbed to mental illness and committed suicide. His paintings of his final years are perhaps his most seminal and renown, and their influence on modern art cannot be overstated.
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Starry Night Over the Rhone, painted months before Vincent van Gogh's self-hospitalization, represents what some scholars consider to be the pinnacle of van Gogh's artistic creation. The stunning 1888 oil was one of van Gogh's three major paintings to include his now-instantly recognizable night sky, full of swirling aquamarines and luminous stars. Painted along the banks of the Rhone in Arles, where the artist was living at the time, van Gogh included two small figures in the foreground that are often overlooked. In a letter to his brother Theo, van Gogh identifies these figures as lovers; he also identifies Ursa Major as "the Great Bear" in the sky, despite the fact that, in reality, the painting faces away from the constellation. This beautiful night scene, with views of the quay and its gas lamps and small boats on the river, now resides in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, and is one of van Gogh's most beloved canvases.