Sunday, April 10, 2011

With eyes that know the darkness in my soul...

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

—Don McLean

Vincent Van Gogh, I think, might well have been the Edgar Allan Poe of the world of fine art, if mental anguish is the measure of such things. He didn't start painting until his late twenties and most of his most important work was completed in the last two years of his life. Even so, his body of work consists of about 2000 paintings and drawings. How much of his mental illness is reflected in his work is only conjecture. He checked himself into a mental hospital for a time towards the end of his life. The windows had bars on them and he painted what he saw through those bars. Starry Night was painted during his stay at the hospital.

Vincent was mostly unappreciated during his lifetime and did not realize much financial success from his painting. Several of his paintings fetch upwards of $100 million today. "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" (1890) sold for $139 Million in 1990, a hundred years after it was painted. (Adjusted to 2011 dollars.)

1890 is also the year Vincent took his life. He was 37.


  1. He died in Auvers sur Oise, just outside Paris and not far from where we used to live. It's the village where Dr Gachet had a house. At the time I was there, there were reproductions of Van Gogh's paintings placed overlooking several of the scenes he painted. It was a wonderful to see the scene through your own eyes and then Van Gogh's. The village had hardly changed.

    It's so very sad that he died so young. His brother didn't do much better, and died six months later.

  2. I admit it. I'm an unwashed peasant. I don't understand the appeal of Van Gogh's work.

    Of course, that applies to a great deal of "great" art, as well.

  3. @A. - Maybe a picture of his grave next time you go? (And don't forget about the others, either. Like Chopin and, I think, Oscar Wilde.) And Bobby Kennedy is also buried in Paris, I think, but I don't care about his.

    Dr. Grachet was Vincent's shrink. Vincent once wrote that the Dr. was crazier than HE was.

    Theo had syphilis, did you know? Just a tidbit to brighten your day. I'll be waiting for the pictures eagerly.

    Are you sure you spelled hors d'oeuvres correctly? He died in the hors d'oeuvres?? What a thought.

  4. Maybe not Bobby Kennedy. And Chopin less heart.

  5. Without fail, shrinks are crazier than their patients. It's a requirement of the job.

    I didn't know Theo had syphilis, I thought he was crazy too. But I think that goes with the job as well.

    I can think of many worse ways to die than in the hors d'oeuvres. I wouldn't like to die in the desert though.

  6. @Stephanie Barr - That's too bad. You and Vincent were a lot alike (I don't mean you are crazy.) I just mean that you are also unlikely to have your work appreciated and bought while you were alive. :)


    Vincent couldn't write worth a damn, though.

    Maybr if you cut off your ear...

  7. I don't want to talk about syphilis anymore.

  8. @A. - Or nut cases.

    And don't be disparaging the dessert. Desert. Dying. Whatever you were disparaging. :)

  9. Vincent didn't have children (that I'm aware of). If he had he would have(a) had a good excuse for insanity and (b) known you don't need to cut off body parts to suffer.

    As for your assessment of my writing, you may very well be right.


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