Vincent van Gogh’s struggle with madness during his short life of 37 years did not stop his strong desire to paint. Painting was his best way to express his feelings, emotions, and personal perception of reality. He said: “I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” Even though he was not given too much attention as an artist while he was alive he worked extremely hard to improve his technique. Van Gogh was convinced that he could paint despite his lack of success in selling his paintings. He also said: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
He is known for selling only one painting during his lifetime. It was an oil landscape entitled Red Vineyards at Arles that van Gogh’s friend and painter Anna Boch bought for 400 francs in Paris 1890.
Van Gogh realized that if he was to succeed as a painter he needed to learn more and make changes in his style. He started his painting career using dark colors that were fit to describe the life of the subjects at that time such as miners and peasants. When he moved to Paris, in 1886, his style changed. He started using a brighter palette and was greatly influenced by the work of the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists.
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His paintings did not seem to be appealing to the art collectors of his time because they found his style too primitive. It also gave the impression that he rushed through his work. It took a long time for people to realize that Van Gogh’s evident brush strokes found in a lot of his paintings were a realistic reflection of the artist’s creative energy.
Irving Stone did a lot of research to present van Gogh’s life as accurately as possible in his book Lust For Life (1934). “It was Stone’s first major publication”. (Wikipedia) It describes how many of van Gogh’s famous paintings were created.Stone used the letters between Vincent van Gogh and his younger brother, art dealer Theo van Gogh and the assistance of other people that knew van Gogh in order to write his book. It is shown that Van Gogh had difficulties developing relationships, especially with women, because of his abrupt nature. Paul Gaugain was his closest acquaintance. However, he suffered a major mental breakdown that resulted in him cutting off his own ear after an altercation with Gauguin in December 1888.
Very shortly after van Gogh had been hospitalized in Arles, he died in his brother’s home. Van Gogh was able to complete some 2,100 pieces of art, of which 860 were oil paintings and 1,300 were watercolors. The movie (1956), with the same name, is the first and the best movie that has been made about van Gogh’s life. It starred Kirk Douglas as van Gogh and was nominated for four Academy Awards. Kirk Douglas was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role and won The Golden Globe for Best Actor – Drama. Anthony Quinn won Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Vincente Minnelli was nominated for The Golden Globe for Best Director.
In Kirk Douglas’ first autobiography, he described how hard he had to work to represent van Gogh’s troubled personality. He said that he got so much into the character that it took him a long time to get back to his normal behavior. He wanted his role to seem so realistic that he started to move and act like Van Gogh in his daily life. He practiced to perfection the scene when he was looking in the mirror and decided to cut off part of his ear. He was also able to express the artist’s conflicted nature so well off the screen that his family became concerned. Kirk Douglas delivered a timeless representation of an unrecognized painter during his life that battled hardships and insecurities and has had no idea that he would become one of the most famous figure in the history of art.
Featured Image: Public Domain (Wikimedia) – qualifies as fair use under the Copyright law of the United States; purpose of use: illustrate commentary about the film.
Photos# 1,2, and 3: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons), #4 book (own copy) “Lust For Life” by Irving Stone, #5: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons) by Kirk Douglas (Livre “Le fils du chiffonnier” de Kirk Douglas.) and #6: movie trailer – Anthony Quinn and Kirk Douglas, Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)
Sources: book “Lust For Life” by Irving Stone and Wikipedia
In Movies Made After Books also see [Forgotten Books] Sans Famille (Nobody’s Boy), Suite Française [Bruno’s Theme – piano piece and movie scenes], A Thorny Kind of Love Story, and It’s Nice to Meet You, Anne with an ‘E’ [Netflix]