During quarantine, I have started an “Art of the Day” project on my Facebook. I think people enjoy it, and it makes me happy. I find myself spending a lot of time trawling through museum websites to get art. My hope is to have a mix of genres (landscape, portraiture, etc.) and pictures that people have seen as well as art they may not be familiar with. (I didn’t want this to be a “greatest hits” project. True, there is a lot of art that I am familiar with that others may not be…)
I was looking at the Van Gogh Museum collection today. Naturally, I got to thinking about Vincent’s life.
By all accounts, and historical analyses, Vincent was mentally ill. He spent time in institutions, and ended his life with a revolver shot to the chest.
I know all that. You see the madness in the painting. No one bought them because they could not see what the madman saw.
Yet Vincent captured something about life, about color, about form that was more real than mere realism. We gravitate to his paintings because their beauty touches us, and makes us think about the reality we know, and the reality he knew. The intensely yellow sunflowers. The twisting irises. The swirling stars above the black cypresses. The sad faces of the peasants and the townspeople. The deep, deep blue sky above the church with the diverging paths. And yes, in the end, the crows circling above the frantically waving wheat.
I wonder if the convergence killed him, that what he saw in the world was too much for the world. Maybe the difference between what he experienced and what he could communicate to the others that refused to listen became too much. Maybe it simply became unbearable. Death would seem the only way out.
Vincent’s death was a tragedy. Vincent’s life and his art were gifts.