Vincent Van Gogh’s passion in painting was so deeply entrenched in his being
that you could barely distinguish the art from the man.
More Than Passion
To call Vincent Van Gogh’s enthusiasm to paint a passion is far below the truth. This word passion does his story no justice. Instead, we might say that Vincent was consumed by his own art. It almost controlled him. Certainly, he himself had little control over his own life.
Born to a good family with respected parents who served their Dutch Reformed Church as pastor and wife. Vincent was one of six children. As the eldest son his father expected great things from him and, even as a young boy, Vincent also expected greater things from himself.
These great things were achieved in his lifetime, but he would never see this within himself. Vincent Van Gogh felt as though he was a failure in his father’s eyes. Initially, Vincent wished to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve the church as a pastor.
With underlying personality disorders from a young person, Vincent was not respected in the same way his father was. Over the years Vincent’s life was always marred by the weakness of his uncontrollable moods and seizures. This made him unpopular with the local people who were not happy to follow him should he end up taking on priesthood. So he abandoned the idea of being a pastor and set his life’s dedication to becoming an artist.
He had hopes of redeeming himself to his father through his art and proving himself to be a success. This dream, unfortunately, ended abruptly when Theodorus, Vincent’s father, died suddenly from a stroke before Vincent was able to be seen as the great artist that he was.
He was accepted in the art world by his peers and was indeed friends with Claude Monet who helped him develop his artworks with brighter atmospheres than Vincent was used to using.
Vincent was troubled as a young man, never finding love and constantly being frowned upon for his overzealous behaviours and outbursts. He was a man who felt deeply, and in a way that was hard to express to others who evidently did not (and maybe could not), share the same depth of the love of nature that he felt.
This deep love for mankind and nature is the remnants of Vincent’s upbringing as the son of a pastor. He had been brought up knowing God. His father had seen the good within him and, in even his most trying times, his father would still have hope that Vincent would come good in his manhood years.
Aside from his father, Vincent Van Gogh had another important person in his life who was there for him whenever he needed, and that was his brother Theo. Theo had a strong financial background which he used to enable Vincent’s artistic lifestyle by caring for him financially. As well as this,
Theo was accessible in being there as an emotional rock for his brother in his good times and bad. Theo was very often the only person who Vincent could heartfully communicate his thoughts to and they were in regular communication via letters to each other.
This financial help from Theo was the element needed for Vincent to pursue his life a painter and to live a life where he was literally feeding his passion for his art.
Trouble in Life and Love
Nevertheless, it was clear from Vincent’s youth that he had troubled ways. These troubles even caused problems in his love life, initially choosing to pursue a relationship with his first cousin, a practice that his family wholeheartedly disapproved of. His advances were also rejected by his cousin herself. His quest in this relationship led to family rifts between his father and his aunt and uncle.
But his wild and unruly passions were not without cause. It appeared that Vincent Van Gogh suffered from a serious mental condition that was left untreated as was the case in those days as so little was understood about mental illness.
Signature piece for Vincent Van Gogh
The Madness Deepens
Unfortunately, as Vincent continued to live his life, his untreated condition gradually worsened to the point that there were times when he could comprehend very little indeed.
He ended up being sent to the asylum at Saint-Remy. His symptoms were many. Nightmares, absent-mindedness, insomnia, and anxiety, amongst others plagued him. With a list like this, it is easy to understand that he could not find a way to relax and be at peace within himself and in his mind.
“When I tried to get him to talk about the motive that drove him
to cut off his ear, he replied that it was a purely personal matter.”
Félix Rey to Theo, 30 December 1888 – from The Van Gogh Museum text.
There are various reports to how it came about that Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear. One report from the text of the Van Gogh Museum in Holland, suggests that he had a severe seizure. During this seizure, he cut off his ear. He was immediately rushed off to hospital and there he was diagnosed with acute mania and delirium. From reports of psychologists of modern day, it is suggested that he was possibly suffering from a severe type of epilepsy or bipolar disorder.
Félix Rey – Physician to Van Gogh at Saint Remy
Later in his life, these attacks were to become more frequent and they could last for weeks. Even as he came out of the seizures he would go through a stage of confusion and incoherence. The stress of these mental problems affected his physical health too and Vincent Van Gogh often had to endure painful stomach and digestive problems. All of these problems affected his sleeping so much so that the chances of him recovering to full health were always slim as his energy was so depleted. Unsurprisingly, there were also reports of depression amongst his many other ailments.
The reports of the death of Vincent Van Gogh are varied and unconfirmed with the most common being that he had shot himself. Some say (romantically) he died alone there in the field by his easel.Others say that after shooting himself – with the intention of killing himself – he managed to make his way back to the inn where he was staying. Here an effort was made to save the painter’s life, but after falling into a coma he passed away overnight.
A Gift Vincent Van Gogh Wanted To Share
Vincent Van Gogh is perhaps as famous for his insanity as he is for his art. But the question here is, would this exceptional artist have created such unique images with such passion without his ailments that caused him to throw himself so deeply into the work that he produced. His images aim for the senses to deliver to people on canvas what they may possibly be missing when they are seeing the same image in real life.
His goal was always to show the deep, deep feelings that he felt himself. His passion was in showing everybody else the wonders of the world as he did, whether it made sense to them or not.
Van Gogh and The Seasons Exhibition is on at
The National Gallery of Victoria from 28 APR 17 – 9 JUL 17
To find out more, go to: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/van-gogh-and-the-seasons/
Article by Eva Zonnios