Born in 1853, Dutchman Vincent van Gogh is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time. A post-impressionist painter, Vincent’s painting style was not only colorful, but distinctive. His most famous works, including “The Potato Eaters”, “The Starry Night” and “Bedroom in Arles” are recognized and acclaimed by cultures worldwide. Take a look at some of his work and you’ll notice a vast contrast between the bright, beautiful colors of his paintings and the tormented, brooding nature of his tragic personal life.

Van Gogh created some 2,000 works of art, including 900 paintings and 1,100 sketches and pencil drawings during his short ten-year career. Most of his masterpieces are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and reside in prestigious museums across the world or in the hands of lucky private collectors.

Vincent van Gogh’s iconic “The Starry Night”, painted in 1889

Intrigued? Here are twelve fascinating facts you might not know about the Dutch master.

1. As a child, Vincent Van Gogh was described as serious, silent and thoughtful, preferring his own company to that of others.

2. When Vincent first began painting, he used peasants as muses, and later would paint flowers, landscapes and portraits of himself, mainly due to the fact that he was extremely poor and couldn’t afford to pay models.

“Bedroom in Arles” – one of three similar paintings depicting Van Gogh’s residence in Arles, France

3. Vincent van Gogh was a largely self-taught artist, pursuing other vocations such as that of an art dealer and clergyman, before becoming an artist at the age of 27.

4. Vincent van Gogh suffered from health issues including temporal lobe epilepsy, hallucinations and mental illness.

The vibrant “Irises” went under the hammer for a cool $54 million dollars at a Sotheby’s auction in 1987.

5. More than 150 psychiatrists attempted to pinpoint the cause of Vincent’s turbulent behavior, with diagnoses ranging from schizophrenia, porphyria, syphilis, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy.

6. At age 28, Vincent penned a letter to Theo, his brother and closest friend, writing: “I am so very happy with my paintbox, and I think my getting it now, after having drawn almost exclusively for at least a year, better than if I had started with it immediately”. Safe to say, he definitely ‘got it’!

“The Potato Eaters”, one of Vincent’s most well-recognized paintings

7. One of Vincent’s most famous works is an oil painting named “The Potato Eaters”. It depicts the harsh reality of country life. Van Gogh gave the peasants hard faces and bony, working hands. His aim was to show these people this way, depicting how they “Have tilled the earth themselves with the hands they are putting in the dish… that they have honestly earned their food”. This masterpiece is now housed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.