Vincent Van Gogh

Source: Wikipedia

Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most famous artists in the world. So famous is he that even my spell checker recognizes his name. He is also the prototypical wandering insane artist. It seems like he had a loving, dedicated family, was often helped by his friends, and generally had lots of genuinely nice people around him to care for him. He was also an intelligent man, but the only place his intelligence shines today is his painting. His school record reeks of failure, but in his case that can’t be an accurate device for measuring his mental powers. Diseased, malnourished, poisoned by absinthe, alcohol, smoke, maybe lead and who knows what else, he seemed determined from the start to make his short life a miserable one.

Source: Wikipedia

Even with his madness plaguing him he was able to paint an incredible number of works and he was praised for his genius during his lifetime. Theories about his madness frequently cite absinthe or even the plants Dr. Gachet can be seen holding in this picture, but Van Gogh’s story is terribly sad because, whatever the cause, he could have been happy and celebrated had he only gotten his shit together. Of course, insane people like him are beyond shit-getting-together cures and we have to try to cope with them as best we can.

Source: Wikipedia

From the few descriptions I’ve read he sounds like the sort of person who gets unbelievably frustrated when the world does not conform to his preconceived notions of what it should be and loses it when his simplified abstract notions meet the messiness of our human existence. Adjusting these notions to meet experience like people who are not insane do is not an option. The world was all wrong for him and people were wrong, too. Even the nice ones. His paintings seem like places where he could rest, where things work out like they are supposed to. There’s that intensity that may have been partly created by his madness, but it’s toned down into a peaceful realization of the right way art should be. If he thought the world looked like this or should have looked like this I can’t say.

Source: Wikipedia

Like with Degas and some other Parisian looneys who were laying the foundations of what would become Expressionism, elements are detached and treated as subjects in themselves. However, there are always compositional concerns in any Van Gogh and they seem to creep up as more important than the elemental separation. These are paintings that can and should be viewed from a distance to see how it all was put together. There are strange colors and swirls and weird perspective and all that good stuff, but they are put together in a way that commands attention. Van Gogh has exploded the world as it presents itself and put it back together the way it should.

Source: Wikipedia

Some of these things have been coated with so much paint that the canvas gives out a 3D effect. The outlines pop out and make the pieces of the puzzles not only apparent but safely insulated from one another. You can look at the areas they have encircled and feel protected by the slabs of dried old paint, like padding for your wandering eyes. It’s a good thing this insulation is present, because they are very strange paintings that would quickly turn terrifying were it not there.

Source: Wikipedia

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