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Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali Comparison


When it comes to analyzing historical personalities, it is easier to approach those whose contribution can be measured by the economic and political impact their activities produced on contemporaries. The picture is quite different from people of art as there are no objective parameters that determine why one master was more successful than the other.

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Vincent Van Gogh and Salvatore Dali are unquestionable legends of their time. Although they represented different schools (Van Gogh was a Post-Impressionist while Dali was the leader of the Surrealist movement), they can be compared based on the influence of their legacy on world art. The paper at hand will juxtapose the two artists as for their background, personality, creative activity, and public perception of their works.


Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was born in Groot-Zundert (a province in the south of the Netherlands) to an upper-middle-class family. When he grew up, he worked as an art dealer but failed, which made him turn to religion. He took up painting in 1881 when he was suffering from depression and solicitude, which continued until his suicide in 1890. The only person supporting him was his brother Theo (Charles 11).

On the contrary, Salvador Dali (1904-1989), who was born in Figueres, Spain, came from a middle-class family. Yet, from his early years, he had a chance to develop his artistic talent and continued his practice in an academy in Madrid. In Paris he interacted with such masters as Magritte, Miró, and Picasso and, unlike Van Gogh, quickly became appreciated (LaFountain 8).


Van Gogh continuously suffered from psychotic fits, hallucinations, depression, seizures, and excessive drinking, which made him spend a lot of time in psychiatric asylums and finally led to his suicide. It is widely acknowledged that his instability contributed a lot to his unprecedented style (Buckley 627).

Although Dali was also considered “insane”, it was a performance rather than a real disorder. Even though he insisted in his autobiography that he bit off the head of a bat and was excited by necrophilia, there is no evidence supporting his claims (LaFountain 25).


Van Gogh managed to create a unique style characterized by the optimal application of vivid colors, broad and irregular brushstrokes, and inventive perspectives. Several years before his death, he started creating a collection of purposeful works that were aimed to be commercially successful. Yet, he was not successful (Charles 87).

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In contrast, Dali became a living icon among surrealists and never knew a period of public neglect. Although he is mostly remembered as a painter, he was also a sculptor, print-maker, fashion-designer, writer, and film-maker. This makes him the most versatile among artistic personalities of the 20th century.

Public Perception

Van Gogh was seen as a loser and a madman during his life and became known only after his death. Nowadays, he is perceived as a misunderstood genius, whose paintings range among the most expensive in the world (Portrait of Dr Gachet, Portrait of Joseph Roulin and Irises) (Charles 91).

Unlike him, Dali enjoyed public recognition all his life and was awarded a lot of honorable titles. However, the most expensive of his works (Portrait de Paul Eluard) costs $22.4 million, which is incomparable to Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr Gachet ($82.5 million) (LaFountain 58).

Works Cited

Buckley, Peter J. “Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890): Experiencing Madness.” American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 174, no. 7, 2017, pp. 626-627.

Charles, V. (2017). Vincent Van Gogh. Litres.

LaFountain, Marc J. Dali and Postmodernism: This is Not an Essence. SUNY Press, 2016.

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