I feel like I know Van Gogh like a friend or a brother. I’ve literally studied his art in museums around the globe. Examined his brush strokes and how he layered paint in ways to give depth and dimension through colors, thickness and contrast. How his work looks different up close as it does from a distance. I’ve read books on his life that went into great detail about his nature, upbringing, friends and family.
How Van Gogh searched at an early age to give something special to the world. Not in an ego fashion but from his heart. And how he attempted to become a Priest but was not successful in the ministry. He then decided to become an accomplished artist in his early twenties, which is a very late time to start in life. He began by studying, drawing and painting many of the contemporary and past Masters of his time. He immersed himself in it. Once he felt he had learned enough, he then embraced his own style and endeavored in that with passion. We wanted to be unique, original.
He wasn’t someone that explained himself or went out of his way to correct others misconceptions about him or his work. Because of that he was looked at as being arrogant and rude by some critics and reporters who attempted to interview him. He could see very clearly though, if the person interviewing him could appreciate his vision and how his style captured that vision of his, in his paintings. If someone only viewed his work in a classical sense of proportion, alignment and symmetry then he knew there mindset was stuck in a fascade of perfection that wasn’t part of his vision. He looked to show the broken in a way that showed the heart and love in life with a depth that words couldn’t capture.
He didn’t bother to explain that to critics who didn’t see it and looked past it for something else as he knew that they were closed minded and stuck in what they thought they knew.
Van Gogh, through his choice of colors, contrast and asymetry, accentuated and punctuated feelings of anguish, disenchantment, failure and the road less traveled or glorified and took those feelings and expressed them with his art in a way that many could connect to with there soul.
He took despair in paint and brush and showed beauty in an uncanny way. The same way Mother Theresa found love through compassion in the streets of Calcutta tending to the dying, diseased and decay and how a song about loss, pain and hurt can express those emotions in a heart felt way.
Seeing that parralel in our own life through art, music and so on can show how our shame, guilt and despair, if cultivated in loving hands can be fertilizer for our soul. Which often creates an alchemy from pain and hurt to grattitude and thanks that makes us feel whole.
Van Gogh spoke to his brother Theo about a critics review of art work he had shown in a gallery of his work in Paris. In it he was so excited writing to Theo. He wasn’t excited because the review was necessarily good, rather in his own words he said that the critic “he gets it”. Finally the press and the public were starting to see and feel his work and sense his passion rather then view it in a contemporary mindset that put his vision in a box, so to say.
Toward the end of Van Goghs life he lived in the South of France. He lived in a small Shanty and sold his art work to pay for his boarding and food.
He had become friends with Gauguin in Paris and he would come out and visit Van Gogh from time to time in the South.
Gauguin was very self flattering and narcistic. He had a cruel edge of indifference to his ego that he used on Van Gogh. Van Gogh was enamored by him though and felt flattered to call him his friend. Gauguin exploited that and often further undermined Van Goghs already low self esteem. Deep down Gauguin felt threatened by Van Gogh as he wanted to be thought of as the most famous artist of his time but Van Goghs humble nature and talent threatened Gauguins ego.
As always, Van Gogh didn’t blame or explain things to people. He left others ignorance to themself and didn’t bother himself attempting to challenge it. He simply ignored or dismissed them which was taken by them as being rude and insulting when in actuality it was quite the opposite. There arrogance and self proclaimed knowledge prevented them from ever seeing past there ego to witness Van Goghs unparalleled vision in his art.
Van gogh, in letters to his friend and physician Dr Paul Gatchet, would tell him how Gauguin would often cut his hair and in doing so would be in a mania telling stories of his exploits and perceptions. Which Van Gogh enjoyed. It was, I believe, a place of bonding and intimacy that Van Gogh often yearned for in life but rarely had.
I believe in a manic and frenetic display of emotion while cutting Van Goghs hair, Gauguin cut Van Goghs ear. Van Gogh being the person he was never mentioned the truth of the matter and took responsibility for Gauguins grandiose and immature behavior.
Van Gogh had a ritual each day of carrying his easel and art supplies miles into the woods looking for an opportune location to paint. He returned routinely at a certain time for his evening meal and one evening he didn’t return. It wasn’t till the next morning he arrived with a gunshot wound to his abdomen. He explained to the police that it was self inflicted and he left the weapon were he fell by his easel.
The police; however, never found the weapon by his easel when they searched the area. He died a few days later and the Police were unconvinced of his story and listed the cause of death as undetermined.
It’s suggested in certain circles that a young hunter mistook Van Gogh for a deer and shot him. Van Gogh supposedly dismissed the lad and in his own style, accepted the blame as his own.
I’m not insinuating that Van Gogh was without Mental Health issues and maybe difficult to engage but I believe we all have Mental Health issues and that’s why we go to church, look for a soulmate or have a job to simply do more then pay the bills but give us a sense of self worth.
If we think of that paradigm of thought as we all are broken and maybe our purpose in life is to embrace our broken and create, with Gods help, our own art in life. Seeing how we all are trudging our way on the road to Damascus might be cathartic in seeing our own hurt and pain as the brush and paint we create our masterpiece with.