Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) for whom color was the chief symbol of expression, was born in Groot-Zundert, Holland. The son of a pastor, brought up in a religious and cultured atmosphere, Vincent was highly emotional and lacked self-confidence. In 1886 he went to Paris to join his brother Théo, the manager of Goupil's gallery. In Paris, van Gogh studied with Cormon, inevitably met Pissarro, Monet, and Gauguin, and began to lighten his very dark palette and to paint in the short brushstrokes of the Impressionists.
After a while he decided to go south to Arles where he hoped his friends would join him and help found a school of art. Gauguin did join him but with disastrous results. In a fit of epilepsy, van Gogh pursued his friend with an open razor, was stopped by Gauguin, but ended up cutting a portion of his ear lobe off.
In May of 1890, he seemed much better and went to live in Auvers-sur-Oise under the watchful eye of Dr. Gachet. Two months later he was dead, having shot himself "for the good of all." During his brief career he had sold one painting.
This picture used to belong to the Florence Gould' collection which Florence bought in 1965 for $700,000 from Robert Oppenheimer, one of the father of the atomic bomb. Twenty yeras later, the Gould's collection was for sale on auction and the van Gogh went for $ 9.9 million to an unknown buyer. People then assumed it was Mr. Alfred Taubman, president of Sotheby's Parke Bernet himself or a certain Mrs Amalita Fortabat, heiress to the South American cement empire.