Vincent van Gogh’s Thoughts
Hello, and happy Friday! I am sure by now you can see how much I have come to love Vincent van Gogh’s artwork! He really had a drive to learn how to draw and paint like so many artists I know! His letters are amazing. However, from early on in his endeavor to become a respected artist in his time, Vincent struggled with a great deal of rejection and judgment. He was known to be dirty and malnourished much of the time, even living homeless for short periods. For instance, in his Letter #158 from Cuesmes, in September of 1880 that he wrote to his brother Theo, he shared this:
“…at Courrieres, there was a coal-mine or pit; I saw the day-shift coming up at dusk, but there were no women workers in men’s clothing, as in the Borinage, only miners looking weary and miserable, blackened by coaldust, wearing pit-rags and one of them an old army greatcoat. Although this stage was almost unbearable to me, and I returned from it worn out, with bruised feet and in a rather melancholy state, I don’t regret it, because I saw interesting things and you learn to see with a quite different eye, there among the raw ordeals of poverty itself. I earned a few crusts of bread en route here and there in exchange for some drawings that I had in my suitcase. But when my ten francs were gone, I had to bivouac out in the open for rather poor shelter, once in a wood-pile and once, and it was a little better, in a haystack that had been broached where I managed to make a slightly more comfortable nest, only a fine rain didn’t exactly add to my well-being.
Well, and not withstanding, it was in this extreme poverty that I felt my energy return and that I said to myself, in any event I’ll recover from it, I’ll pick up my pencil that I put down in my great discouragement and I’ll get back to drawing, and from then on, it seems to me, everything has changed for me, and now I’m on my way and my pencil has become somewhat obedient and seems to become more so day by day. It was poverty, too long and too severe, that had discouraged me to the point where I could no longer do anything.”
Yet here is one of the drawings he did during this time:
A month later he did this one:
Then he wrote in his Letter #160, from Brussels in November of 1880 to Theo:
“…how is one supposed to learn to draw unless someone shows you? With the best will in the world one cannot succeed without also coming into and remaining in contact with artists who are already further along. Good will is of no avail if there’s absolutely no opportunity for development.”
Vincent had so much wisdom and longed for companionship with other artists. I am enjoying reading his letters a great deal as you can tell. I agree with him, because I feel I have grown from knowing and viewing so many other artist’s work, gaining encouragement from them, and learning to challenge myself to try new things.
The main reason I want to share these things with you is that I want to show others that there was so much more to the man, Vincent van Gogh, than the terrible things he did to himself! His mind was brilliant in so many ways. His heart was sensitive to others; he had true empathy for the down-trodden people he saw and met. He was a very hard worker. He worked constantly at becoming the best artist he could possibly be. Yet the sad thing is that I feel he was so misunderstood! For example, this is what he wrote in Letter #164, from Brussels in April of 1881 to Theo:
“…I’ll always be judged or talked about in different ways, whether within or outside the family, and one will always hear the most wide-ranging opinions being put forward.
And I don’t blame anyone for it, for relatively very few people know why a draughtsman does this or that.
Peasants and townsfolk, however, generally impute very great wickedness and evil intentions never dreamt of by one who betakes himself to all manner of places, corners holes that others prefer not to visit, in order to find picturesque places or figures.
A peasant who sees me drawing an old tree-trunk and sees me sitting there in front of it for an hour thinks I’m mad, and naturally laughs at me. A young lady who turns up her nose at the workman in his patched and dusty and sweaty work-clothes can’t understand, of course, why anyone visits the Borinage or Heist and goes down a coalmine all the way to the maintenages, and she, too, comes to the conclusion that I’m mad.”
Sometimes I wonder how many people ever really took the time to try to get to know him. I wish I could have, yet, I have his letters, so I feel I have his heart in my hands every time I pick them up to read them.
I have to say Vincent was a brilliant man who left us a legacy of amazing artwork to enjoy, learn from, and appreciate. Fortunately, his words were preserved as well so that we can see and hear for ourselves who he really was.
As Don McLean says in his song “Vincent,”
“for they could not love you, but still your love was true, and when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry night, you took your life as lovers often do, but I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug. 🙂
Posted on June 12, 2015, in Art Talk and tagged Van Gogh, Vincent, Vincent van Gogh at 13 years old, Vincent van Gogh on Board, Vincent van Gogh Quote: Letter #220, Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portraits, Vincent's Self-Reflections, Vincent's Thoughts on Colour. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.