Thoughts on Van Gogh
Something that always rubs me the wrong way are the countless movies about Vincent van Gogh. The way he gets portrayed as this masterpainter, adored by a few selected people, saying that he was born to paint and nothing else.
Van Gogh was not born to paint. In fact, he didn't start painting until he was 27 years old. And he was not adored. He was kicked out of the village he lived in.
Van Gogh's story is not a happy story, no matter how hard Hollywood tries.He sold his first painting only 2 years before he died at 37. He has painted everything we know in 10 years. That meant 8 years of painting and not a single painting sold.
It is no wonder that Hollywood tries to portray him as a wise beyond his years genius who thinks about eternity more than his next meal. He has to be portrayed that way or else it would mean that all his hurt was for nothing. That all his hurt was meaningless. So Hollywood had to give it meaning, because nothing is worse than bleeding for nothing.
Van Gogh died two days after he shot himself with a revolver on a field.
2 days of more pain and agony. 2 days of waiting for death.
He couldn't live the way he wanted to and he couldn't die the way he wanted to. I like to think he wanted to die on that field surrounded by nature, his friend, his muse. Nature was the wonder he could try to explain through his paintings, a wonder the rest of the world would understand.
He died two days later in the arms of his younger brother, Theo van Gogh.
Theo died a year after that, at age 33. They are buried next to each other. Why am I telling you about Theo? Because it is his wife we have to thank for keeping Vincent Van Gogh's art alive after his death. She published the letters sent between the brothers and planned exhibitions, all resulting in the paintings and the name "Van Gogh" becoming as well known as it is today.
Maybe Van Gogh's art is so well known because his life was a tragedy. Maybe that's why his paintings sold after his death, because people felt like they did a ghost a favor for appreciating it.
What if it was his tragedy that made people truly see him?
What if his death was needed for his art's success?
Van Gogh's death made him human to us.
His life was a shakespeare worth tragedy and in our modern world of rooting for the underdog we ate his story up.
Loving Vincent, at eternity's gate, me and Vincent, to name a few movies about his life.
We identify with him because we all see creative suffering within us. It is easier to compare yourself to Van Gogh saying the time was never right, people weren't ready for what you had to say. Because, like some wonder, we hope to touch people when we are gone. That, like him, after our death, we get a museum filled with our art, that, like him, people will see us as the tragic hero we never were.
I am not saying that van Gogh could never have been as introspective as he is being portrayed. But his life was never anything other than a tragedy, himself staring in all the roles, in a world only he could see.
© Nel 2022-06-15
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