Loving Vincent: An Introduction

There has never been an artist who poured so much emotion, so much love into his paintings that he only sold one in his entire life

The sad tale of Vincent Willem van Gogh is not an unpopular one, nor a cheap one—both literally and figuratively. His paintings are some of the most expensive pieces of this era, auctioning an astounding $82, 500, 000 for his Portrait of Dr. Gauchet. Yet his life is the cruellest joke possible of fate: with only one painting sold amongst about 2,100 pieces of art. Vincent Willem van Gogh is amongst the first artists I have known, admiring his work ever since I was three. His room, the Yellow House, and the city of Arles are all familiar places for me.

His brushstrokes are just so powerful yet subtle and organized, I could spend ages just browsing his gallery on Google Arts and Culture. Well, I did.

In 1852, Anna Cornelia Carbentus gave birth to Vincent— the stillborn. Exactly one year after, during the March of 1853, Vincent Willem van Gogh was born. Ever since his birth, the artist bore the heavy melancholy of his stillborn brother. He started drawing at a young age, encouraged by his mother. His uncle gave him a job as an art dealer, where Vincent earned more than his father at the age of 20. Some say that those years were perhaps the happiest years of van Gogh’s life. When he transferred to Paris, however, he became deeply frustrated at the overly commercialized art he was forced to sell, to a degree that he told his customers to not purchase anything. He was dismissed a year after. From then on he began his great journey across Europe, drawing and painting his surroundings while he sunk deeper into depression. His diet staples consisted of bread, alcohol, and tobacco. During his final ten years, he created over 1,700 pieces. On the 29 of July in 1890, he ended his life with a self- inflicted wound to the chest.

Again, this is not an unfamiliar tale. But, van Gogh’s style is turning into the commodified art he feared so much as an artist. When Starry Night becomes a pattern on socks or T-shirts you would find at a street store, when others are making money out of his hard work, it is a disrespect to the artist. This project is a stage for me retell the complete story of Vincent Willem van Gogh. Of course, I have no right to claim that I understand his life better than anyone else; nobody does. He’s dead! But Eminent is an opportunity for us to learn about our Notables to the best of our abilities, and so I will.

Now, I do not deny that Vincent and I have a lot of differences. But when I research into female artists, none struck me as much as Vincent. It’s not that there is no good female artist, it’s that there is only one Vincent in the world. And he just happened to be a male. I believe that completing a study on him will have a prominent impact on me despite our differences. Frankly, even if I’m not allowed to conduct my Eminent Project on Vincent, I will still research into him in my own time. The project is an excellent way, however, for me to declare my passion and interest in the poetic ways of Vincent van Gogh.

Deon

Vincent

Female

Male

Canadian

Dutch

Non- religious

Christian

Interested in art

Interested in art

Two siblings

Five siblings

Enjoys nature and animals

Enjoys nature and animals

Influenced by western art

Influenced by Japanese woodcuts

Frustration with commodified art

Frustration with commodified art

Upper- middle class

Upper-middle class

Does not suffer from mental illness

Mental illness

When I went on the library field trip to Vancouver Public Library, I had Harper Lee and Artemisia Gentileschi on my mind as back-ups. Gentileschi was a female renaissance painter noted for her Caravaggio- like style of painting. However, I discovered that we also shared many differences, if not more than those of van Gogh. She was the only daughter of a painter family, caucasian, white, and a Baroque style painter; frankly, I am more interested in the post-impressionist movement that naturalistic styles. She was raped at a young age and the incident greatly influenced her artistic identity. I am privileged and lucky enough to claim that I have never experienced such trauma in my life.

As for the case with Harper Lee… When I walked out the library with three books on Harper Lee and six books on van Gogh, I discovered that another person wanted to do Harper Lee as their eminent this year. I compared my interest on both and decided that I have a stronger passion for van Gogh.

A key decision factor in my choice is the recent film Loving Vincent, an oil paint animation movie!!! Having done animations as my in- depth last year, I was tremendously shocked at the release of the film.

My aim for this project obviously involves learning more about the misunderstood genius, but also it includes discovering more about the influences on and from van Gogh. I also wish to peak into the personal life of this man, for it provides me with great insight on the life of an artist. Well, I also want to pick up on his unique art style, one of the greatest things I admire about this man. Through our shared love for pure art and detest in commodified art, I also hope to discover more about myself in relative to this eminent person: my future life, my journey as an artist, etc.

Let us begin the path to loving Vincent.

2 Comments:

  1. Hey Deon! This is a really well written post. It is completely able to convey your passion for Mr. van Gogh, and I’m super excited to see what’s going to come out of your project (I think my dad is too :P).
    A few questions:
    1. van Gogh does not seem like the most positive of characters. What, if any, were parts of his life that he cherished?
    2. What was his view on painting, i.e. what release did it give him from his actual life, and how important did he think it was?

    Lucas

    • Hi Lucas!
      Thank you very much for your comment! I’m really glad that you (and your dad) show interest in my eminent person!
      To answer your question:
      1) Vincent van Gogh’s life was not completely filled with sadness and agony. Although there were times of despair, he also enjoyed certain eras in his life. The happiest times of his life were likely when he worked as an art dealer for his uncle, as well as when he first moved to the Arles to start a studio for artists. Both of these periods, however, ended in a tragedy as van Gogh was removed from his position a year after; and cut off his own ear in distraught after a heated fight with Paul Gauguin. During his last year, he created many paintings of his childhood memories of Brabant while he was admitted in the asylum. This could also possibly indicate that he longed to go back to his childhood, despite his cold description of his youth.
      2) Painting had always been a big respite for Vincent, especially during his years at the asylum. He took refuge in drawing and painting the world around him, as the act of doing so relieved his psychotic attacks. Unfortunately, on some days his episodes became so severe that he would not be able to paint. His major view on painting was centred around nature and reality, presumably influenced by his countryside childhood in Brabant. Paul Gauguin, on the other hand, preferred more imaginative approaches to art. This creative differentiation created huge disputes between the two artists, eventually causing Vincent to cut off his own ears. Van Gogh believed that art was a crucial part of his life, as stated in his quote ” I risk my life for my own work and my reason half foundered in it”.
      Again, thank you for your questions! I look forward to your project too!
      Deon

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