Thursday, September 06, 2012

Vincent van Gogh, The Tortured Artist

Vincent van Gogh, born in 1853, grew up in Holland.  He was raised in a religious family, his father a minister.  After finishing school, he followed in his uncle's footsteps and became an art dealer.  Even though he was successful, he got tired of it and lost interest.  Vincent then studied theology, but failed a couple of entrance exams despite his intelligence and ability to speak multiple languages.  His next undertaking was working in the coal mines with hard-working common people.  He became interested in the people around him, and that's when his life as an artist started.

In 1880, at age 27, Van Gogh entered art school in Belgium.  The following winter he fell in love, had his heart broken, and began painting.  He lived frugally, and studied color theory.  Vincent moved to Paris, discussing art with the most influential artists of his time, like Gauguin.  He began using more color, applying paint with thick bold brushstrokes, and painted all that was around him.  For a time, Van Gogh  painted Sunflowers.  At the same time, he began having mental and physical health problems, that eventually earned him the title of "the tortured artist."

Red Vineyard at Arles
Vincent produced 900 paintings in ten years, none of which were fully appreciated during his lifetime.  The only painting Vincent van Gogh sold during his lifetime was Red Vineyard at Arles, now on display in the Pushkin Museum, one of the oldest and largest literary museums in Russia.

At age 37, Vincent took his life.  The world lost a genius.  It is said about Van Gogh....."he was completely absorbed in the effort to explain either his struggle against madness or his comprehension of the  spiritual essence of man and nature."

After Van Gogh's death, it was his sister-in-law who established a market for his paintings.  Vincent also wrote over 800 letters during his short lifetime, many of which were to his brother, Theo.  She delayed the publication of the letters, though, because she wanted the public to get to know the paintings before the man.  "It would have been unfair to the dead artist to arouse interest in his person before the work, (for which he had sacrificed his life), was recognized and appreciated as it deserved to be."

Words spoken by Van Gogh 
"One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it.  Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way."
"When I have a terrible need of....shall I say the word....religion.  Then I go out and paint the stars."
"But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things."
"I wish they would only take me as I am."