I took an art class as a child. My parents firmly believed that children should be exposed to a variety of activities to try and see where their interest and talent lie. I was definitely interested in art. I was not talented.
While in Amsterdam we toured the Van Gogh museum. What I knew before the visit about Van Gogh was limited to a vague idea that he’d chopped his ear off and wasn’t he the guy who painted Starry Night? And those Water Lillies? Oh wait. That was Monet. But Starry Night and the ear. Yup, that’s Van Gogh.
Turns out after the four floors and several hundred paintings that I love Van Gogh. Tortured soul that he was. There were a couple of stories and one painting that bore into my memory. Good art is like that. It becomes a part of who you are and how you view the world.
Vincent Van Gogh had several unsuccessful careers prior to becoming an artist. He was fired from being a pastor for being overzealous. At that point he decided he would be a painter. Just like that. Decided. He had no training and frankly no idea if he had any talent. I viewed several of his first paintings. They were awful. Simplistic. Much like what I drew when I took my childhood art class. I love this early optimism. I love that he didn’t give up. Van Gogh painted over two thousand paintings in just over ten years. During one period of his life he only consumed bread, tobacco and coffee so he could use the rest of his money to buy paint supplies.
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” Vincent Van Gogh.
In 1888, Van Gogh left Holland for France hoping to start an artistic community. When he found out his friend, Paul Gauguin had agreed to come, Van Gogh started to paint to decorate his room. The paintings he created? Sunflowers. I love that among Van Gogh’s most famous paintings are ones that were created solely to decorate for a friend.
I wish Van Gogh’s story didn’t have chapters of depression and asylums and shotguns. I wish it was just beauty and joy and good surgeons and redemption. But I’m grateful for the paintings. My favorite painting was painted in the last few weeks of his life. Wheat Field Under Clouded Sky. I think part of the message of Van Gogh’s life is that beauty is there even in the pain.
The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent Van Gogh
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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