The Sunflowers reproduction prints could be seen in many a Dutch home. The paintings left me with a sad impression as a young girl. I observed the strokes that represented wilting petals. Weren’t sunflowers and paintings supposed to bring in the light, colors and decorative delight?
Now, Starry Night spoke more to me; all the big swirls of yellow and white colors in the blue night sky above a sleepy town. I could envision Van Gogh painting it, while the whole world around him was at rest. "When I have a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion, then I go out and paint the stars" Van Gogh was quoted. It turns out he painted the master piece Starry Night while being a patient at the psychiatric asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
It was not until I watched Loving Vincent this week in the theater that the portrayal of his life and his pain really hit home.
Vincent van Gogh was spoken of as a sensitive boy, almost too sensitive for this world. It was not until I watched Loving Vincent this week in the theater that the portrayal of his life and his pain really hit home.
Sure, there was a certain national pride knowing the famous Van Gogh was Dutch. When Americans were referencing the Dutch painter I was quick to educate them on how to correctly pronounce Van Gogh; make the g-sound back in your throat.
We all have heard the somewhat idealistic stereotype of the tortured artist. Van Gogh’s sad tale is that he only sold one painting during his lifetime. Although Monet recognized his talent, Van Gogh’s fame only took off posthumously. Loving Vincent plays with the idea whether Van Gogh really committed suicide or if he were a victim of a shooting (it is unusual for someone to shoot themselves in the stomach). Perhaps the cutting of his ear was the result of a quarrel and was not self-inflicted after all? Maybe Van Gogh was not so ‘crazy’ as has been claimed? Vincent’s letters and the accounts of the people around him confirm that he did suffer from what was called in those days ‘melancholy’ or depression. Today he may have been diagnosed with Bipolar - or Borderline Personality Disorder.
Depression does that – it takes the brain hostage and tempts to drown you
Art is to console those who are broken by life,” Vincent said. He was a man disillusioned by life, bored by the Dutch mundane lifestyle. He found himself inspired by nature, people walking by rivers and stars more colorful than appear at first glance.
Sitting in the theater my throat tightened as Vincent thought of himself as a burden to his family. His mind tortured him; depression does that – it takes the brain hostage and tempts to drown you. Better to run you think; better to go than to burden those around you.
Theo, Vincent’s brother relates to their sister Vincent’s last words “La tristesse durera toujours” - The sadness will last forever.
We may never fully understand Vincent van Gogh’s story – because can we ever truly know someone?
"I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly'" - Van Gogh
I was surprised to recognize characters from Vincent’s paintings. It was mesmerizing to see them come to life, move from scene to scene, painting to painting. Not only can we admire Loving Vincent as a work of art, we can appreciate how the movie is able to let us in to the heart of the characters and the story of Vincent van Gogh. It is hard not to leave the theater without wanting to look up all of Van Gogh’s paintings.
I skipped the Van Gogh museum last time I visited Amsterdam, with the excuse of it being so sunny out. I don’t think I will next time. When I go I would like to bring my kids along and tell them of Van Gogh’s intentions: “I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly'.”
Pietje - say Peach-a!