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Last Updated:  Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Van Gogh birthday marked
Self Portrait as an Artist by Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh is renowned for his self portraits
Thousands of fans flocked to Amsterdam's Vincent Van Gogh Museum on Sunday to celebrate the 150th birthday of the troubled Dutch painter.

Admission was free for the occasion and queues stretched around the building.

Visitors were treated to classical music and art experts in 19th century costume answered questions about the life of one of the world's greatest artists.

The Museum - home to the biggest collection of Van Gogh's masterpieces - also launched a year-long series of exhibitions and events to mark the occasion.

The paintings on display at the Van Gogh Musuem span the decade from 1880 to 1890 and include such works as The Yellow House (1888) and Wheatfield With Crows (1890).

"He is a big name like Einstein and Beethoven," said Andreas Bluehm, the museum's head of exhibitions and display.

He was an artist for all the people for all times
Andreas Bluehm, Van Gogh Museum

"We are always amazed by how popular he is and his popularity seems to be growing.

"The art was great and he was such an interesting personality with such a tragic life. He was an artist for all the people for all times. He really wanted to appeal to a broad public but he didn't see that in his lifetime," Bluehm said.

Van Gogh is considered the greatest Dutch artist after Rembrandt and the museum houses more than 200 of his paintings and 600 drawings.

Around 1.3 million visitors a year pass through the musuem's doors.

Scandal-filled life

Virtually unknown during his short and tragic life, Van Gogh achieved world fame only after his death.

A post-impressionist, he started by painting sombre Dutch peasant scenes such as The Potato Eaters (1885) but later developed a looser style on canvas in paintings like his famous Sunflowers (1889).

Van Gogh's life partly accounts for the fascination with his work.

He shot himself in 1890 after a short, scandal-filled life and with his art virtually unrecognised.

The son of a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, Van Gogh tried his hand at dealing in art in London and Paris, teaching at a boarding school and evangelical preaching in a Belgian coal mining town before becoming an artist in his late 20s.

He scandalised his parents by taking a pregnant prostitute into his household and by pursuing his unrequited love for a cousin.

Although he sold only one painting during his short life, his masterpieces went on to fetch millions after his death at the age of 37.

  • The Dutch village of Zundert, where Vincent Van Gogh was born, has made 2003 The Van Gogh Year in his honour.

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