This seminar will investigate in depth the career of this immensely popular and influential artist. Van Gogh has been the subject of much myth-making--both in his time and today--in which he appears as the quintessential mad genius whose passionate and tormented emotions become the stuff of art. We will both investigate the formation of this myth and view it critically, balancing it against the artist's own account of his career in his paintings and prodigious correspondence. Van Gogh's extensive, insightful, and fascinating writing begs the question of how one should treat an artist's statements when interpreting his works. We will also examine the role of biography in art. Finally, rather than viewing the artist as an isolated creator, we will situate his work within the artistic landscape of late 19th-century Europe, and especially France, where he spent his most productive years as an artist, 1886--1890.