Who Inspires Me: Vincent Van Gogh

A few days ago I was trying to write about what inspires me in life, but I just couldn’t find anything. And now I realize why. It’s not about what inspires me, but who. So I decided to have a category on my blog named WHO INSPIRES ME, and there you can find all the people who have set an example for me, whose stories have made an impact on me and hopefully, you’ll get inspired too.

So the first person I’m talking about is VINCENT VAN GOGH.

A while ago, one of my dad’s friends brought him this little book from her visit to Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. On it, you can read and see through his paintings his journey as an artist.

Now, let me get this straight: I’m not an expert on art. Although, art is subjective. A painting can bring different emotions to different people. A song or a poem can mean something to me, but something completely different to you. But, I’m not here to discuss art. I’m here to talk about Van Gogh’s story and how it inspires me.

Van Gogh thought he knew what he wanted to be in life, but failed constantly. And all this failing led him to a total darkness; he cut ties with his family for almost a year, and drove himself to a complete isolation, that also led him to depression. But then, during the summer of 1880, he finally decided to become an artist. He was twenty-seven years old.

Van Gogh’s cousin by marriage, Mauve, gave him several lessons in his studio. Vincent was completely dependent on the money his brother Theo sent him every month, which allowed him to rent a studio; he put all his time and energy into painting, confident that someday he’d be able to make a living out of his art.

You see, Van Gogh wasn’t a natural talent as an artist. It took him a lot of practice, and failing and starting all over again. Although, people that have studied him, say that he was a natural talent in writing. You can see this through the letters he wrote, most of them to his favorite brother Theo. There are 820 surviving letters; in them, Van Gogh writes about art, but also about his life and his own struggle. They say that “they are his most penetrating ‘self-portrait’”.

It was in one of those letters that I found three of my favorite quotes ever.

The letter dates from January, 1874, and it’s addressed to his brother Theo. On the first paragraph, when talking about painters that he and his brother enjoy, he says: “How I’d like to talk to you about art again, but now we can only write about it often; find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful”.

And then, after he wrote down some of the names of the artists he enjoyed the most, he says to his brother: “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it. And teach us to see”. And last but not least, almost by the end of the letter he writes: “I also have nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is?”

Like I said at the begging of this post, I’m not an expert on art. I’ve never even tried painting, not because I don’t want to, but because I think I’d be terrible at it. I am, however, a writer. Writing has been there for me ever since my mom gave me my first journal and pen. I was around five years old. Even then, I remember my attempts at writing poetry. I wrote a “poem” about a fireman, and then another one about Hello Kitty. As I grew up, I realized that my writing was the only way for me to express feelings. My paper and my pen acknowledged them, and let them be just what they were: emotions. No explanations, no contradictions or questions, just emotions. As I look back now I realize that all the characters I created back then, all those stories I wrote on my old notebooks, were a reflection of what I was going through. They helped me understand my situation. They helped me make decisions. And they also helped me dream, for most of those characters were already living the life I wanted. So I consider that art too. Whether you’re telling a story through words on paper or through colors on a painting, you’re portraying something. You’re giving a message. That’s why Van Gogh’s words get to me on so many levels.

I think most of us know of the tragic ending of Vincent Van Gogh. He became mentally ill, but that didn’t stop him from keep on painting. Sadly, on July 27, 1890 he shot himself in the chest, and two days later, he died. He never knew how big he’d become. He never imagined his name would be forever written in art history and that his work would inspire so many artists around the world.

Sunflowers, 1889. It is said that when he was buried, on his coffin were yellow flowers.

It is a sad ending, but I think his life and his journey to become an artist, as he once dreamed when he was twenty-seven years old, are inspiring. He never had it easy. His family thought of him as a disgrace so many times. He failed over and over. He didn’t find his true passion until he was almost 30. And he never got to see his work being admired and respected. He fought mental illness; fought with monsters that weren’t really there, demons that lived only on his mind. The same demons that led him to cut off part of his own left ear, without even knowing why. But he never stopped painting. On the contrary, he took his sadness, his loneliness and turned it into something beautiful. Something that even today, centuries later, is still admired just like he admired nature and loved, just like he loved poetry.

23 thoughts on “Who Inspires Me: Vincent Van Gogh

  1. This is such a sweet post on why and how Vince Gan Gogh inspires you. Even though you are not an artist, I like how you show how you connect with him anyway. The last paragraph of your post is so full of light, I feel why you find him inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My father was an artist and he was always studying his technique and telling me stories about him. When I got my first writing rejection my Dad reminded of Van Gogh’s story.
      Great post!

      Like

  2. This was a really informative post! I knew very little about Van Gogh, aside from the famous ear incident! It’s amazing how similar Van Gogh’s struggles and the development of his art form is so relatable to so many! xxx

    Ashley
    https://lellalee.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I especially loved his quotes about nature. Also, I love your idea about writing about who inspires you. I think I might do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A brilliant artist. Last year I visited – finally, on my fourth or fifth trip to Paris – the Musée d’Orsay, where many of his iconic works hang. Such splendour!
    Some talk of how he must have had such a hard life to torture the world in his paintings, but I think it was just a new way of seeing, as so many others were seeing the world afresh in those years. Gauguin, for example.
    Thanks for caring, thanks for being affected. We’re all human. We’re affected by cultural artifacts and emotions; even if we cannot paint or play the piano, we react to the beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!! Thank you for getting it! I was scared that people might think that I didn’t know what I was talking about since I’m not an artist, but you’re right! We’re humans and we react to the beauty. Thank you🙌🏼

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Van Gogh definitely had gumption, didn’t he?? Tenacity and perseverance are essential for success. He definitely had both. His life shows us that on days we want to give up, we have to keep going. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to keep pushing forward no matter what our obstacles.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve read about Van Gogh, and I was curious about his work. So, I made sure to check out his paintings when we visited the MET museum in New York. I’m no art expert, but amongst all the artworks that I saw in the gallery, his masterpiece “Wheat Field with Cypresses” got me teary-eyed. Despite the struggles that he was going through… he did make something utterly beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

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