A Troubled Artist’s Words are Healing to this 20-Something

by on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
View of Arles with Irises by Vincent van Gogh

View of Arles with Irises by Vincent van Gogh

Who is Vincent Van Gogh – aside from the most basic of ideas in your head? He was a painter – famous of course, or else you’d probably never know his name. His name is synonymous with “Starry Night” one of his most famous paintings. You might also be able to recognize or name some of his other more famous works like his the eerie Skull with a Burning Cigarette, Bedroom in Arles, The Red Vineyard, Cafe Terrace at Night, The Starry Night, Starry Night over the Rhone… well, there’s plenty to pick from. My favorite groupings of his work are the ones with cypress trees (Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background, Cypresses, Yellow Wheat Field with Cypresses) and flowers (Sunflowers, Irises, Poppies, Red Poppies and DaisiesView of Arles with Irises).

Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background, c.1889

Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background

As I read accounts of his biography online, I am struck by a man who had passion and was consistently put down and rejected by other’s. While I have always heard he “cut off his ear” it would appear he only cut off the bottom part of an ear lobe (not that I’d recommend it! – but the exaggeration of an entire ear being sawed off is quite different). What I had not realized was that he hallucinated near the end of his life, committed himself to an asylum for a while, and became so severely depressed that he ultimately walked into a field and shot himself in an act of desperate suicide. There is no firm grasp today on what they can say Van Gogh was afflicted from, but everything from paint poisoning to schizophrenia has been suggested. There was an awful lot of tragedy in his life, and I focus on it not to draw up a picture of a fractured man – but to show that even those who are greatly accomplished are afflicted by life. For as much as people in the public eye want to go out of their way to say they’re normal too, I feel this far too often gets whitewashed to be PR friendly and fake. Had Van Gogh lived today, we might never have learned of half of the things we know today, because glossy magazines make everything so false and shiny and “perfect” (this is why all models are generally impossibly thin). I think it’s important to understand where the heart of Van Gogh’s passion came from – which is, from feeling. And while I’m no artist, I can relate to being compelled to live my life by my heart, even with a brain that is admittedly often unhappy.

Yellow Wheat and Cypresses by Vincent Van Gogh

Yellow Wheat and Cypresses

I might have been afraid to be in a room with Mr. Van Gogh – some of his paintings are so aggressive that they make me uneasy. Other’s I quite love. But what surprises me are the quotes attributed to him from many respectable quote websites. The entire reason I began to write this piece about Vincent Van Gogh was because of a quote I saw and thought I ought to e-mail it to my Mother, who gets discouraged by her own painting far too often. But as I say about any sort of art (whether it be writing or photography) – if you’re unsure of yourself, then you’re probably better than you know. It’s often those who cockily think they’re really good that are the let down’s.

Vincent Van Gogh Irises

Irises

So, I’d like to share with you some of the Vincent Van Gogh quotes I found to be most touching to me. I hope that at least one makes you pause and reflect, or feel happier for a moment. And if he truly did say these things, maybe he was much less scary than I let myself believe in my head. Sometimes wisdom and a great capacity for love are buried under layers of what seem to be unapproachability, shyness or mistaken anger. If I could travel back to the 1800’s, I like to believe that I would walk forward with a courageous head and heart of open-mind, ready to acknowledge a man who at that time was overlooked. I’d ask him for his lessons, his wisdom, his thoughts on the small and simple things about the stars and the flowers. I always forget how much more the stars and flowers matter than anything else. But through his paintings, I am reminded. They take me to a place that seems very innate within me. I understand art more than I can understand most things – and the thing of it is that I am no art scholar. Art does for me what art is hoped to do for those by create it: make you feel. And as a writer, I’m equally drawn to his words. He spoke of what you could generalize into categories of  “disappointment”, “inspiration”, “love”, and “purpose”. I put these in quotes because I think that the most moving, powerful quotes supersede any supposed category. They are always so much more than just the idea of one word. That is what makes a quote memorable. And these I find to be worthy of committing to memory.

Vincent Van Gough quotes that I found particularly moving:

  • If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. – Vincent Van Gogh
  • But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. – Vincent Van Gogh
  • I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. – Vincent Van Gogh
  • In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing. – Vincent Van Gogh
  • Love always brings difficulties, that is true, but the good side of it is that it gives energy. – Vincent Van Gogh
  • “How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?” – Vincent Van Gogh

Add a little bit of Van Gogh into your day while improving your interior design skills very slowly…Van Gogh switch plates.

I played around in photoshop for this, let me know if it's embaressingly bad!

I played around in photoshop for this, let me know if it's embarrassingly bad!

Van Gogh – Cypress with Star Decorative Steel Switchplate Cover $8

Van Gogh – Irises Switch Plate – Single Rocker $9

Van Gogh – Sunflowers Switch Plate – Single Toggle $9

Van Gogh – Yellow Wheat & Cypresses Switch Plate – Double Toggle $11

Van Gogh – Poppies Switch Plate – Double Toggle $11

Van Gogh – Almond Blossms Decorative Steel Switchplate Cover $8

Van Gogh – Poppies in a Vase Decorative Steel Switchplate Cover $8

Van Gogh – Starry Nighton the Rhone Decorative Steel Switchplate Cover $8

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