The Starry Night. Saint Remy, June 1889. The MoMA, NY.
1. You look at this painting, and you’ll get people saying this is the epitome of his ability to inspire abstract expressionists. It’s expressive, emotional and imaginative,. The Starry Night is so distinct, it’s still relevant– of all merchandise-inspired-by-High-Art, this is one of the most recognizable. So much of his art is marketed to you, and you probably didn’t know it until you look up a virtual gallery of all his artwork. And why his stuff of all stuff? I think it’s his bold use of colors and lines. And it’s fantastic that he makes it look like there’s so much psychological tension– you just know that he set the scene for a crazy interesting story with you as the main character. But that’s my speculation. Whatever it is, it’s 100 years later and The Starry Night, as well as his other paintings, are influential as ever.
2. He said “Normality is a paved road; It’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow.” And although many artists can say the same thing, you should look at his life. He wanted to join the clergy but stubbornly refused to finish his requirements; he pretty much went overboard with trying to be romantic with his crushes; he was in love with a pregnant prostitute despite the obvious nosedive it was taking; and he wasn’t even famous during his lifetime. One might say he lived a miserable life, but he sure as hell lived by his motto, and I sure as hell give him props for it.
3. Van Gogh appreciated nature, and if you love nature, you’ll probably appreciate him. He could paint flowers and the outdoors with such romanticism, they’re pretty much a go-explore-nature campaign. In letters, he’s praised it by saying “If you truly loved nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” And, I guess that’s enough to like van Gogh but he accomplished something that’s even greater than that– he can convince you through his art if an environment is menacing or peaceful. I mean look at it:
Wheat Field with Crows. July 1890. Van Gogh Museum, AMS & Cafe Terrace at Night. 1888 Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.
He’s using the same colors, but he paints with such different motives that you know instinctively which one would make you feel safe and which one is more akin to a horror movie scene. Yellow is scary in Wheat Fields. Yellow is inviting in Cafe Terrace at Night. Both have no people to tell you how to feel, but both convey it so clearly. Look at his range here!
4. His use of deep blue is hypnotic, and I can’t emphasize it more than what beautiful blue!
I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his favorite color, but he sure knew how to use it. If Picasso had the Blue Period, van Gogh made it his religion. Dominating shades of blue for every occasion. Sad? Obviously blue. Happy? Why not try blue? Pensive? Blue is good. Whimsical? Blue. As the website colormatters say: “you can’t go wrong if you use blue.”
5. He’s “largely self-taught” (source: moma.org). When so many of the greats were given their career through apprenticeship or were encouraged into art school in their teens so they could get their pedigree, it’s amazing Vincent van Gogh felt confident enough to make this his career. Even if he thought his brother being an art dealer could get him anywhere, his brother made it clear to him that his pride and joy first painting The Potato Eaters was not up to Parisian standards and he couldn’t sell it. By this time, it was 1880 and van Gogh was about 27 years old.
6. Another thing that’s pretty admirable is his close and inspiring relationship with Theo– his brother, friend, art dealer, and financial/emotional support (source: wiki). With about 800 letters between them, the van Gogh brothers really conveyed their warm brotherly bond. Not only that, but van Gogh shows off his thoughtfulness. Even in a depressive state, you can tell he’s amused by his own nature, and you begin to root for him to recover his mental health. He waxes poetic, but you can tell he sincerely feels everything he writes. Everything seems to affect him, and he’s sometimes too idealistic, but without it, you know he wouldn’t be half as creative as he turned out to be.
7. Van Gogh got a reputation as “Christ of the Coal Mines.” Before pursuing painting as a full-time profession, he lived in a town of coal miners. He sympathized with the poor workers and made it a point to document their lives in art. And although van Gogh was a well-read polyglot, he refused to learn Latin on the premise that it wouldn’t help him serve anyone but the well-educated (source: biography.com). With the common people in mind, van Gogh deserves some respect for his unambiguous morals, standing his ground and facing a lot of disgrace for it.
Perhaps this article doesn’t convince you to like van Gogh, but I hope I gave you seven good reasons that help you see what made him different from the rest.