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One Artist, One Passion

In this lesson we’re looking at a massive text and audio comprehension in English.

Read the text below about the world famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Pay special attention to the dates and the tenses that are used. Above the text is the audio version if you prefer to listen. 

Have fun with the lesson, and don’t forget to try the quizzes.

– James.

Lesson Contents

The artist Vincent Van Gogh

Let’s learn all about one of the most famous artists in history. Listen to the audio and follow the text. Pay special attention to the use of the Past Perfect.

On 30 March, 1853, a baby boy was born in North Brabant in southern Netherlands. He was the oldest living child of a minister called Theodorus and a bookseller called Anna. This baby grew up to be one of the most famous painters of all time – Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh loved school, he was a very serious and professional boy. He showed his skills from a young age, in 1859 at the age of six he started drawing with a pencil, and by 1867, at the age of fourteen he was painting and drawing all the time. Despite his talent, Van Gogh never wanted to be an artist; he decided that he could make more money by buying and selling art than he could by making art, so he concentrated on his school work and trained to become an art dealer.

In 1869, at the age of sixteen he was working for his uncle’s art gallery, where he stayed for six years. In 1875, at the age of twenty-two, he moved to Paris to continue his career as an art dealer. Many years later he moved to Amsterdam, and it was there in 1881 that he fell madly in love with his landlady’s daughter. When she rejected him, he held his hands over a burning candle until she promised to see him. With a broken heart, and severely burnt hands, Van Gogh moved to England, and looked for another job.

Van Gogh was known to be a very unpleasant person, and he never stayed in the same job for more than a few months. Between 1882 and 1885 he was a teacher, a preacher, and even an accountant! Van Gogh went through a period of feeling lost and alone. In 1886, after he had given all his possessions away to a charity, he decided to return to painting.

Van Gogh’s genius as an artist was never noticed while he was alive. He travelled around Europe and painted different people and places. Despite his skill, he could never sell his paintings and make enough money to be happy. People didn’t like Van Gogh’s art because they thought it was too depressing. The fashion at that moment was bright, vivid colours and realistic paintings. Van Gogh’s art was very bleak and dark.

In 1886, at the age of thirty-three, Van Gogh was living in poverty. He hadn’t sold a painting in months, and any money he earned was spent on brushes and paint. Despite this, art had become Van Gogh’s passion. He decided to move to France to continue his career.

In 1888 he arrived in Arles, France. It was here that Van Gogh had his artistic breakthrough. He painted Bedroom in Arles, Café Terrace at Night, and hundreds of other works of art. This was also where Sunflowers was painted, which is considered today to be one of the biggest masterpieces in the history of art. His style had completely changed too, he was painting with bright yellows and reds. He was noticed by some art critics in France who became interested in his work.

Later that year however, Van Gogh had a fight with his best friend, Gauguin. This caused him to have a mental breakdown and to cut off a part of his ear. In 1889 he was sent to an asylum where he stayed until 1890. This didn’t stop him from painting though! It was in that asylum that he painted The Starry Night, Poppies and Butterflies, and hundreds more.

Shortly after leaving the asylum in 1890, Van Gogh committed suicide. He was thirty-seven, and had no children. His art only started to become popular in 1914, and many of his paintings are now worth hundreds of millions of euros. Two of his paintings were stolen in 2002, and they have never been found to this day. His full collection, which is more than 2,000 pieces, is valued at more than 8 billion euros!

Correspond the dates below to the important events in Van Gogh’s life.

Listen to the audio clips, and answer the questions about Van Gogh by selecting the responses below.

Read the paragraph and look at the underlined sentence, then select the tense that it uses.

Read the short texts again, and order the events.

All Quizzes