VAN GOGH AND EXPRESSIONISM
None discovered it more than the Dutchman Vincent van Gogh (1853–90).
His story, perhaps more than that of any other artist in the modern art canon, is well known: the madness, the ear, the sunflowers and the suicide.
The open-minded, talent-spotting, artist-nurturing Camille Pissarro summed up Van Gogh in one typically compassionate remark: ‘Many times I’ve said that this man will either go mad or outpace us all.
That he would do both, I did not foresee.’ Vincent’s life began ordinarily enough in Groot-Zundert in the Netherlands.
He was the eldest of the six children of the Reverend Theodorus and Anna Cornelia van Gogh.
His uncle was a partner at the art dealers Goupil & Cie in The Hague and helped the sixteen-year-old Vincent to secure an apprenticeship with the company.
He did well. Postings to the firm’s international branches followed: first Brussels, then London. By this time his younger brother Theo had joined the company, which precipitated a regular correspondence between the two Van Goghs that lasted until Vincent’s death.
The letters would discuss art, literature and ideas, and would gradually reveal Vincent’s increasing disillusionment with the materialistic nature of art dealing: feelings that were intensified by a growing obsession with Christianity and the Bible.
It was this conflict of personal interests that led to his sacking and subsequent stay in the unglamorous English town of Ramsgate in order to teach.
Things didn’t go terribly well. Vincent was clearly a decent man, but his strong feelings were an acquired taste.
After a spell of unpaid work as an evangelist he wrote to his brother Theo saying, ‘My torment is none other than this, what could I be good for?
Couldn’t I serve and be useful in some way?’
Theo came up with an unconventional, but prophetic answer: become an artist.
Much thanks to Will Gompertz’s book What Are You Looking At….some of the blog is directly taken from this fantastic book.