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. 🙂
Here is a painting I did in Vincent’s style with the short dashes of paint that was inspired by one of his letters he wrote to his parents in April of 1876. He was traveling on a boat and described the waters as “quite dark blue” and the “sun went down and cast a streak of dazzling light on the water.”
There was a little more to his description that I had forgotten about, so I may do another one. I also didn’t realize until now that his yellow hat he was known for wearing is kind of shaped like a sailor’s hat! Well, back to the drawing board!
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
WELL, ACTUALLY, MY FAMILY MADE MY MOTHER’S DAY, OF COURSE, BUT VINCENT HELPED!! THESE ARE MY MOTHER’S DAY PRESENTS!!
THIS ONE WAS A SURPRISE FROM MY DAUGHTER!! She purchased them online here: http://sockdrawer.com/collections/art-socks Pretty cool, huh? I love them!
THIS BOOK IS THE PRESENT I REQUESTED. I TRY NOT TO DO THAT FOR MOTHER’S DAY, BUT THIS YEAR IT WAS A MUST, AND I’M GLAD I DID!!!
I requested the book after seeing an ad for it in an artist magazine. The introduction is a lot of biographical information about Vincent Van Gogh which is interesting and easy to read. I knew a lot of it already, but some I did not.
The rest of the book is about a third of all the letters he wrote to his family, but mostly to his brother Theo. Apparently he wrote over 900 letters in his lifetime! I wish Theo’s letters were in there, too, but Vincent’s letters are so interesting to me. I just started it a few days ago, so I am not too far, but I can tell how sensitive he was which makes me love him more. Many people who suffer from bipolar which I’ve read is what modern writers think he may have suffered from, are very sensitive individuals. I know I am sensitive which is also known to be a characteristic of the “artist personality.”
There are some prints of a lot of his drawings included throughout the book some I have never seen. My daughter found the book on sale at Barnes and Noble which was nice. It is a thick and hardbound so it isn’t really easy to take along to town, but I still took it in the car the other day.
It is such a blessing to be able to read about what Vincent thought about art, nature, the process of being an artist, etc. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves his art or is just curious about how he thought. It has made me think about keeping more of an art journal while I am working so I can refer back to how I was thinking while I worked on a piece.
Here is one of my favorites that Vincent Van Gogh painted. It is titled “Wheatfield With Crows.”
Until next time, have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!! 🙂