Friday, 15 June 2007

Vincent van Gogh-I

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on 30th March 1853 at Groot Zundert , a small village near the Belgian border. His father was a pastor. He had three brother and three sisters. Vincent was the eldest among them. Theo or Theodorus was his younger brother as well as a friend and confidante of Vincent. Vincent went to his local village school and then to a private boarding school and finally to a high school. He left his studies in 1869 at the age of 16 for the reasons unknown to anybody. His uncle was an art dealer who found him a position as a clerk at the Goupil Art Gallery in The Hague. He did well there and was sent to London branch of the Gallery in 1873. Theo was the only member of the family with whom Vincent got along with and they had sworn an oath of life-long friendship.

In London he formed an intense interest in British art and literature and became a fluent speaker of English. He was happy there till he fell in love with his landlady’s daughter Eugenie which was rejected. This had an adverse effect on his morale and his performance at the gallery suffered and in 1875 he was permanently transferred to Paris and was dismissed in 1876. Not knowing what to do after dismissal he took the job of a teacher. Later he took to preaching sermons however he returned to Holland in 1877 and worked in a bookshop in Dordrecht. The same year he began preparations for the entrance examinations to the faculty of theology at the University of Amsterdam. He could not succeed and went to Brussels for a much shorter course to become a lay preacher. He failed even this course but some how managed to get him sent to a Belgian coal-mining district as a lay-preacher. There he gave everything away, even almost all articles of his clothing, slept in an outhouse on straw. His sponsors withdrew support on account of his state of uncleanliness but blamed it on his poor public speaking talent.

He returned to Brussels in 1980 and then moved to Etten where his parents now lived.

He worked hard at Etten hoping to become a draughtsman. Vincent again fell in love with his widowed cousin Kee Vos which was rejected. His relations with his parents worsened following his refusal to attend church on a Christmas day and he left for Hague.

In 1882, in search of his models, he met Clasina or Christine Hoornik(he called her Sien), an occasional prostitute elder than Vincent who was addicted to drink. He made drawings of her (Sorrow) and set up house with her. This distressed his parents. In 1882 Christine gave birth to a boy whom Vincent called “my little boy”. Later his relation with Christine deteriorated as she reverted to her former life he had to leave her.

In 1883 he went to north of Holland but could not bear the loneliness after the Hague and returned to Nuenen where his family had recently moved. There his relations with parents did not improve. They thought him as a barking dog with wet paws, a foul beast unfit for the home. He disliked his family name ‘van Gogh’ and signed all his works with his first name ‘Vincent’. His life was again complicated by Margo Begemann who was in love with him but her family opposed their friendship. Later he tried to take Piano lessons to improve his paintings but he did not pursue them for long. He painted at Nuenen ‘Potato Eaters’ a work which is now recognized as the summation of Vincent’s artistic faith that time.

In 1885 his father died suddenly of a stroke. He left Nuenen for Antwerp and never set foot in Holland again. He enrolled himself in the Antwerp Academy but his teachers were not impressed with drawings and he was relegated to the elementary school. He had been feeling ill at Antwerp and had lost several of his teeth. He was also diagnosed with a very advanced stage of syphilis and he moved to Paris with his brother Theo into a large apartment in Montmartre. Relations between two brothers became very strained there. He met there many painters- Seurat, Pissarro, Emile Bernard, Anquetin, Lautrec, Signac, Gauguin etc. who were impressed with his work.

He left Paris and arrived in Arles in 1888 where he painted ‘Night Café’ and ‘Sunflowers’. Later he decided to go to an asylum in St. Remy where he painted ‘Starry Night’, ‘The Irises’

Later he moved to Paris for three days and moved to Auvers where is painted ‘Gachet’s portrait, ‘Wheat field under threatening sky with Crows’ and ‘Wheat fields under the clouded skies’ and where is shot himself in the chest. Theo arrived and tried to convince Vincent that there are good chances of his survival. Vincent said on this-“La tristesse durera(there is no end to sadness). He asked for Theo’s forgiveness for all the trouble and expense he had caused him and he died in his arms in the morning of 29th July 1890. Theo died six month later.



Blogger lindsaylobe said...

Don McLean’s (Starry, Starry Night) epitomises Van Gogh's actual life and describes his paintings don’t you think!! Nice posting!!

Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
in colours on the snowy linen land.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze, Swirling clouds in violet haze,
reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colours changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
weathered faces lined in pain,
are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

For they could not love you,
but still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
on that starry, starry night,
you took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
as beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
with eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the strangers that you've met,
the ragged men in the ragged clothes,
the silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will...

18/6/07 5:19 pm  
Blogger abhay k said...

Wow! Lindsay!
This poem is truly amazing!!! And I think a great tribute to a great soul who suffered for his sanity...and the last para is so full of wisdom "they are still not listening".
Lindsay, thank you so much for enlightening me with this poem. I knew Van Gogh but I have discovered Vincent in Van Gogh. Vincent who is trying to set himself free and all of us from the organized thinking. My next post on Vincent would be on his letters he wrote and wise and philosophical things he said.

20/6/07 6:30 pm  

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