If it were possible, for Vincent’s birthday: I would invite Vincent and his brother Theo van Gogh to a cafe in Paris. I would buy them both absinthes, and I would tell Vincent of the tremendous impact he’s had on art and artists (including myself), a lasting impact of the kind that he would never believe, not in his time or this time or the next. I would tell him that the fires he saw in the sky and the voices he heard in his ears and the force that drove him to paint and paint and paint as if there weren’t enough time to paint it all were the fires and voices not of mental insanity but of creative insanity. I would tell Theo that his devotion to his brother and his willingness to support him (despite their differences) allowed the receiver of one of the greatest gifts of divine artistic fire to create some of the world’s finest masterpieces before he burned out. And that Theo’s devotion gives us a model for giving and acceptance and selflessness that we can but stand in awe of and desire for.
The lights are burning low in the cafe and Vincent and Theo must go. But Vincent’s final words to us are the words he wrote in a letter to Theo in June of 1877: “Not a day without a line*”; by writing, reading, working and practicing daily, perseverance will lead me to a good end.” These are words that Vincent lived by, and believed in, and proved true in the course of time. While we may not all burn with the same fire, we can warm our hands and our hearts with those words of advice and our own daily manifestations of it. And one more glass of absinthe.
(*The quote is by Gavarni, an illustrator and artist)
Vincent was born on March 30th, 1853. Click here for another post in honor of this event.