Accessing Art as an Amateur :Vincent Van Gogh

In regards to art and what makes certain pieces or certain artists more accessible to us as an audience, I was thinking of the lengths of how well we could get a sense of who that artist was. Getting an idea of how they were (or are) by their personality or their vision in creating art…Do we look at their work “in their shoes”, with their eyes? Or with ours? Or both?

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I want to use the now wildly famous painter Vincent Van Gogh to elaborate on this assignment’s topic. During his lifetime he was mostly unknown. He was deeply sensitive artist who was plagued by mental illness which ultimately dealt a hand in his suicide. He was not raised to even be involved in the arts but it was something that rather came to him much later in life and the best of his work came in the last few years on his life.

His constant visits to and from hospitals (both medical and mental ones) revealed a man much misunderstood by nearly everyone: his peers, his love interest, his neighbors, the public. Nearing the end of his life he produced some of his best work, an art style that would never be forgotten and paintings that the world would come to cherish for years and years to come.

What is his legacy? Do you feel moved without rhyme or reason when you look upon “The Starry Night”? Do his countless sunflowers painting make you smile? Do any of the portraits of his make you wonder?

By studying the collection of art that he left behind can we glimpse into the head of a deeply troubled man who felt so immensely and attempted to capture every last bit it with his paintbrush? Can we take a look into the past to find a man who was so unbearable lonely and stricken with self doubt but had the courage to try to create and succeed on some level.

I can only think of the British sci-fi show Doctor Who, when one episode The Doctor and his companion time travel to take Vincent forward in time to 2010 to an art museum to show him just how loved by the world he become and to banish any thought of how much of a fraud, or how worthless he thought of himself. Vincent stands in a room surrounded by people who love his paintings — his art is among the greats. The older museum tour guide verbally shares just how Vincent Van Gogh’s art transformed the art world and how, perhaps there will never be anyone else of his caliber to do it and Vincent bursts into tears.

It’s a terrific scene and very moving. I also felt very saddened regarding Van Gogh because it always seemed that he didn't know how brilliant his work was. It's very likely he died not knowing and that alone, is a great tragedy. And while fictional Vincent — — thanks to an old but still active British television show gives Vincent some closure, some validation among other things and that’s something he wasn’t allowed in his lifetime. Perhaps the only action we can do to honor him is to continue to share his art and share what we love about it.

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