He was the guy that cut off his ear, mailed it to a prostute and attempted suicide by eating his own paint. Failure as a missionary minister led to the contempt of his parents. He was next to impossible to understand with a personality so difficult that fellow artists, friends and lovers nearly fled the presence of one they thought insane. He finally succeeded at suicide by shooting himself in his chest. Within the span of his tumultuous life he also manages to revolutionize the entire universe of painting and becomes the most revered artist of his generation. In death the painter Vincent Van Gogh leaves behind an extraordinary body of work.
The life and works of the man are among the most written about, talked about, viewed and treasured. Works from the Van Gogh catalogue regularly sell in the millions. He remains an artist whose creations continue to reach stellar amounts at auction; yet ironically he sold only one painting during his life time.
Vincent is best known for his use of color, light and heavily loaded impasto formed compositions. He was also a formidable writer and much adept in skill and accomplishment as a draftsman.
Vincent loved to draw from the days of his childhood and he would master the form as an adult. His drawings are phenomenal in intensity and are daring feats of emotional dexterity. Contrast Vincent’s strong brutally honest pieces with the refined academics and the soft luminous works of his peers. There is a power of depth in the roughness of the Van Gogh drawings that propels his works to things so incredibly unique that he was destined for a timeless greatness. He was also destined to remain unappreciated in his time. Only his devoted brother Theo and a few other artistic fellows including Toulouse- Lautrec and Paul Gauguin recognized his daring abilities and brilliance. The two honored Vincent with portraits that reside among the world’s most famous.
There was nothing of the fanciful in the works of Van Gogh. Vincent drew from nature; the real world but he was intent on showing both the deeper truth and emotional qualities of his real world subjects. Landscapes, everyday objects and the most common dutiful laborers were his to display. It was the stuff of real life that inspired him and he wanted to celebrate that tortured beauty of human toil, suffering, and abiding faith. The parables of Jesus remained an influenced on Vincent’s life and work long after leaving his failed ministry. “The Sower” a painting originally done by the French master Millet illustrates the parable of the same name. Vincent was so greatly influenced by Millet’s painting that he painted at least two versions of his own of the theme. Drawings usually precede paintings but Vincent’s drawing of “The Sower” was actually done after his painting. The drawing was his effort to show greater clarity in the subject to Theo. Vincent loved to illuminate his letters to Theo with his drawings and those letters are now priceless documents.
In many ways Vincent viewed his work as an artist as a form of ministry. He wanted to bring a new understand of art and art’s purpose to every person and everyday life. He was in effect sowing seeds with his art work to grow, mature and blossom emotionally in our lives. Vincent wanted us to see the world as much more profound. He wanted us to appreciate this great gift of life; a thing remarkable, exuberant and grand.
Among the many phenomenal works of Vincent Van Gogh “The Starry Night” is perhaps his signature piece. It is one of his most visionary and a celebration of the grandeur of the night sky alive and pulsating with energy. The stars and moon perform in an extravagant vista above a huge cypress tree and a small village with “the House of God” at its center.
This work even within its actual small scale; looms over many larger pieces with intensity of thought and pure unmatched emotion. Color, light and form have come together in what is truly a master work. This painted statement is his grandest monument to nature.
Vincent’s life was a quest for meaning, purpose and an understanding of the universe, humanity, truth and his own place in it all. Ultimately he found directness and clarity in the linearity, light and form of his works. The very things that eluded him in most of his life were found in his paintings and drawings. He defined drawing in his words as “…working oneself through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do”. We stand in awe, in true amazement at this man’s work. His sacrifice was great; ultimate and we are all so enormously richer because he worked through many walls of turbulence and pain to a place of genius. We share his genius through his brilliant work; we the beneficiaries of Vincent Van Gogh.