Today I’m reflecting on a wonderfully fat read! (You know the joy you feel when the book that you ordered is fat with words – and small in print – Utter delight!)
‘Van Gogh – The Life’ by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith is engrossing from start to finish. It’s one of those books that transport you into another time, is devastating when it ends, and stays with you for an age after! – Basically, a very good read! The amount of research that has gone into this book is epic.
To be honest, I never really understood why people liked Vincent Van Gogh’s art so much, I thought it was OK, but had seen plenty of other paintings that were in my view, better and frankly, nicer. (Although I did rate his Almond Blossom picture!)
But as with many of the artists I end up becoming obsessed with, it is only after learning about them as people that I really start to appreciate their art and end up falling in love with every stroke of the brush!
I found this book to be balanced as in it didn’t romanticise the life of Van Gogh, in fact, a lot of it makes for uncomfortable reading. He clearly suffered from his mental ill-health and had unresolved trauma with regard to his relationship with his mother, both of which added to his sense of overall rejection. (As someone who works with SEN children, I was thinking - as I read about Vincent’s early childhood - of all the help that he would have been able to access today that may have given him more stability in his adult life…) But, throughout his suffering and trauma, Vincent’s passion, dedication, and sheer hard- work shine through; he wore his heart on his sleeve and each letter, painting, and sketch reveal the rawness that was his life.
The other thing I really gained from this book was a personal understanding of what Vincent did for artists and therefore, art. As I see it, he was incredibly knowledgeable about the art world and knew very well what was popular and selling but (like L S Lowry – See earlier bog!) persevered in his own style, regardless of what others thought about it.
Vincent’s art is Vincent – that’s its power. He was true to himself and was a trailblazer – creating a path that would allow other artists to do the same.
Planksters, don’t change your style to please others, tweak it by all means and work on improving your craft, but what you can offer is unique and necessary. Creativity is a business, I get that, people need to make money, I know, but don’t betray yourself and don’t deprive your circle of influence of something fresh and uplifting that isn’t exactly the same as everyone else is churning out.
Thank you, Vincent, for your heartfelt toil in your art and for creating a space for others to explore their perceptions and expression too. It wasn’t in vain.
With a satisfied sigh and an involuntary twitch of the left eyebrow,