Mad, genius, troubled, conflicted, insightful, happy, depressed, gypsy, restless, focussed, angry, resentful, relentless, moody, agitated, uneven, tormented, iconic, tortured.
They all define Vincent Van Gogh.
His career as an artist, short lived, painting from 1880 to 1890.
Yet, he was prolific – producing more than 800 oil paintings and 700 drawings.
Often penniless and poor – he painted portraits of himself unable to pay the models needed, a technique used by artists to hone their skills.
He relied heavily on his brother Theo to help him, introducing him to some of France’s greatest painters, consoling him during endless bouts of depression and often mental breakdowns.
Son of a Protestant pastor Vincent followed in his father’s footsteps, ending up as a preacher in London.
But it did not last long, symbolic of Van Gogh, moving from one relationship to another, from one job to another, moving from one place to another, his personality in a constant state of flux from contended, to happy, to depressed – often going mad, only to recover.
Throughout all this turmoil there was one constant – his art, painting and sketching.
His paintings, sketches – a reflection of his personal life and surroundings – changed continually and can be placed into three distinctive time frames.
His relationships with others were fractured, starting off well, eventually degenerating into total failure.
One with the well-known French painter, Paul Gauguin, is illustrative.
After less than two months of working together the two were at total odds with one another. It got so toxic that Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor blade.
Nothing happened, but the same night Van Gogh cut off his ear with a razor blade.
A few months later – voluntarily – Van Gogh entered an insane asylum, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, where he painted some of his masterpieces.
Eventually he left the asylum, painting with great gusto, but soon his mental health deteriorated.
On 27 July 1890, in a field near a small village, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. Two days later he died, his brother Theo at his bedside.
Van Gogh once said:
“I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
In life, love eluded him but through his art he expressed it.