“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” ― Vincent van Gogh
One of my favorite artists is Vincent VanGogh.
Perhaps it is because we share our Dutch heritage. Although I have never set foot upon my native shores, I am very much influenced by our heritage. Some of my ancestors refused to speak Dutch at home because once we came here we were “Americans. You will learn to speak American!” Which is English, of course.
I studied German in school, thinking it was close to Dutch. Not so much, as it turns out. Nor do I have an ear for languages. I was utterly abysmal at the study of German. The realization crushed my fervent desire to learn my native tongue.
Having awakened far to early this morning and unable to fall back to sleep, I watched Biography about Vincent. Actually, several biography’s about several artists. Vincent remains one of my absolute favorites.
He was a prolific artist and letter writer. Mainly to Theo, his younger brother. He was a person who loved deeply, often inappropriately, yet never received that sort of love in return. Other than from his very best friend and younger brother, Theo.
Vincent, apparently, was always a depressed person. Even as a child, he suffered from deep depression. His mother never bonded with him, and that influenced his life as well. His great love was a prostitute with syphilis.
My impression is Vincent was not fastidious with his artist materials, often sticking the paint brush into his mouth. Paint at that time, and still today depending upon what sort you are purchasing, contained many deadly poisons. Lead, cadmium, cobalt, and copper to name a few. There were also solvents which were toxic-turpentine, kerosene, and anything else they could get their hands on to use with their paints. At one point in his life, Vincent VanGogh was eating paints and drinking turpentine.
This, of course, can lead to all sorts of neurological and physical disorders.
Which Vincent had in abundance.
Nevertheless, his was a mind that created some of the most amazing art this world has ever known.
The true tragedy here is Vincent never knew his genius would appeal to anyone. In his entire life he only sold one painting, even though he created vast amounts of them. His was the traditional Dutch work ethic. Work hard, from sun up ’till sun down. Go to bed and wake to do it all over again. Eventually, with God’s help, you may be able to provide your family with the minimal of creature comforts-like shelter, a blanket and food each day.
So Vincent worked as a painter, from sun up ’till sun down.
Vincent was never able to provide for himself and depended upon Theo, his younger brother, to provide monetary support. The deal was this: Theo would provide for Vincent and any work Vincent did belonged to Theo. Theo was working for an art gallery and this worked for them both. Theo would, occasionally, be able to get Vincent’s paintings into a show. But, for the most part, Vincent’s work was ignored by the people of the time.
This is the part I find so tragic. Vincent VanGogh did breathtaking work that went utterly unappreciated in his day. I think if he had had any monetary success, he may not have taken his own life at the very young age of 37.
The suicide attempt was poorly done, and Vincent lived a for awhile following the shooting. His precious brother Theo arrived from France and together they spent the hours Vincent had left. Theo climbed into bed with Vincent and held Vincent in his arms as he passed away.
Six months later Theo, himself, would perish. They are buried next to each other.
Theo’s wife, with whom he had a son-Vincent, took on the job of cataloging all of Vincent’s paintings. Since they were scattered across Europe-some given as payment for a debt, some forgotten when he moved on-this was quite an undertaking. Vincent’s own mother destroyed crates filled with his work.
Vincent’s mother did live long enough to see her son’s work appreciated.
I wonder if she cared.