“I want to make drawings that touch some people.”
Vincent Van Gogh painted with purpose. Emotion moved him more than ideas. He felt alive when capturing feeling on canvas with color, line and texture. Nature presented itself to him, but it wasn’t just nature he represented to us; it was himself.
“I want to reach so far that people will say of my work: He feels deeply, he feels tenderly — notwithstanding my so-called roughness, perhaps even because of this.”
Many people have difficulty expressing themselves to others. They feel trapped inside bodies that cripple graceful communication. Some, like Vincent, are lovelorn — starved for the affection of a lover or friend that can be replaced by nothing less.
Bereft of high manners, unkempt in appearance, thick-tongued or slow in voicing mind or heart, even small-talk clumsy — these intimacy handicaps hinder knowing and being known by another in soulful ways. God has made us social beings. We need to connect as wire needs current. We need to relate as sea needs shore.
“It is not good that the man should be alone,” God remarked after creating Adam and before making Eve. The same goes for Eve, of course — for women as well as men. The same goes for children and senior adults, for celibate priests and introverts in crowds, not to mention for couples who feel lonely in a marriage bed.
Vincent found a way to offer himself to the world through his painting. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent explains: “What am I in the eyes of most people? — a nobody, or an eccentric and disagreeable man — somebody who has no position in society and never will have, in short, the lowest of the low. Very well, even if that were true, then I should want to show by my work what there is in the heart of such an eccentric man, of such a nobody.”
You take a step from nobody to somebody by showing what’s in your heart. If not by painting, then maybe by small deeds of kindness. If not by kind deeds, then perhaps by heartfelt words penned and published, or even stuffed in an envelope in the old-fashioned way, stamped and mailed.
Vincent sent a love letter to the world. It sadly remained unopened in his lifetime. Today, no one would consider him anything less than one of history’s great somebodies, because he was one of the world’s great lovers.
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