When it comes to art, there are fewer more recognizable pieces in this world than the collection of Van Gogh paintings which everyone knows about. They seem to be bred into our cultural consciousness at birth: people seem to pick up the ability to distinguish between this master painter and his lesser contemporaries without knowing that they are looking at a genuine masterpiece. It is something which, like recognizing big brand names like Coca-Cola and Disney, just seems to come to human beings without being taught.
It seems as if he stands alone regarding popularity and being recognized by people who ordinarily are not interested in art. His only parallel, it seems, is someone like Pablo Picasso, whom many people know but countless people could not recognize. Thanks to the swathe of self-portraits this Dutch artist produced. However, more people seem likely to be able to recognize him than the celebrities which fill the culture pages of today’s newspapers and websites.
He was, of course, born in the Netherlands on 30 March 1853. Thirty-seven years later, he is believed to have killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This is one of the most Romantic stories in art: the troubled genius, which never fails to capture people’s attention.
The reasons behind his early death are greatly and hotly debated amongst academics, but the belief is that – based on accounts which are contemporary – the artist suffered from debilitating depression. This was a positive and negative thing for him: it blighted his life, but it managed to give him the morose qualities which his work exemplifies. This was exacerbated by people not noticing him during his lifetime.
Although Vincent was affected by a critical mental imbalance and ultimately took his life, he left a physique of over 2,000 canvases, painted in a couple of decades, as a living legacy. Whether or not they characterize his portrayals of residing fields of wheat or swirling stars, tender and considerate portraits of the peasants he loved or starkly bright flowers in a simple vase, his works all bear his stylistic imprint. Seen as an excellent form of communication of the spirit, his work succeeded beyond his wildest desires to consolation and console humanity by art. It is using his paintings, not his over-romanticized, beleaguered life that he should be judged as the poet, prophet and master artist he was.
When he started painting in his twenties (he was a late starter professionally), very few of his works sold. However, he continued to battle against disinterest, producing a huge number of pieces. Many of them survive today.
Artistic experts believe that in the final ten years of his life, the painter managed to put together more than two thousand oil paintings. This is an extraordinarily high number. A significant number of them used paint as their medium.
At the time, people did not care for his work. However, some precious souls kept his productions, which people are thankful for today. Works like ‘The Starry Night’ being destroyed would have left the world much poorer.
Vincent Van Gogh paintings are held in unequivocal high regard by almost everyone. There are art critics who can wax lyrical about the man’s talents. However, it is the average person whose tastes are better represented: those who do not enjoy art do enjoy looking at this unique talent’s work.
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