Ask Vincent
January 29, 2016 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Ask Vincent: In which Vincent van Gogh gives advice both solicited and unsolicited. Part 2, Part 3.
posted by Capt. Renault (7 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have been enjoying this and am looking forward to the exhibit!
posted by crush-onastick at 6:28 PM on January 29, 2016

Oddly touching.
posted by brambleboy at 6:42 PM on January 29, 2016

For a second, I mis-read the title, and began imagining the wonder of a Vincent Price advice column. This is good, but it's less good than my imagined column would be. Oh well.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 7:39 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music,” said Walter Pater, in a famous quote which he did not sufficiently explain in his essay, say the aesthetics experts.

In the end, we shall have had enough of cynicism, skepticism, and humbug, and will want to live—more musically. (September 24, 1888) -Van Gogh, #10 in his 10-point advice listicle in Pt. II.

Regardless of your relationship to music, as a listener or player, I think the two quotes have a lot in common and can be useful meditations (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) whether alone in a cubicle or in the midst of an argument with your roommate about the proper timing and placing of dishes in the dish dryer by the sink.

As a matter of fact, as I was typing this last paragraph, a fly or a bee zoomed by my head on the way to a flower arrangement dedicated to our cat who died last week. (Kidney failure. Not to sound heartless, but this was the least traumatic of all our animal companion deaths, excluding goldfish and gerbils, because this was an alley cat--probably abused--who moved in seven years ago but did not allow human touch, although she was a grooming spooning friend to our hyper-friendly black male castrato cat.)

Even in this strangely weathered city (Denver), a fly or a bee is a strange thing in January. But the point is that the notes of the brief buzz were what my brain focused on, perhaps because I'm just back from an evening of music making. Adrenaline fear, typical--who likes getting stung?--was conspicuously absent from my thoughts.

So, go, Gogh. Not to discount your mental perturbations, but they may have been foregrounded in popular celebrity mythology, to the detriment of your well-balanced views on life, not to mention a bit of talent in the painting department.
posted by kozad at 11:28 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have had just enough alcohol to sob uncontrollably at the "see a fellow creature there in the half-light," line. Obviously I need another margarita or three before continuing.
posted by happyroach at 11:35 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I made the exact same mistake as LeRoienJaune and am simultaneously pleased that I have found a kindred spirit and slightly weirded out by the fact that my brain went there at all.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 5:52 AM on January 30, 2016

Some of my favorites from van Gogh's letters.
“It is good to love as many things as one can, for therein lies true strength, and those who love much, do much and accomplish much, and whatever is done with love is done well.”

“If one draws a pollard willow as if it were a living being, which after all is what it is, then the surroundings follow almost by themselves, provided only that one has focused all one’s attention on that particular tree and not rested until there was some life in it.”

“Many a worker in a factory or shop has had a strange, beautiful and pious youth. But city life sometimes removes ‘the early dew of the morning.’ Even so, the longing for ‘the old, old story’ remains. What is at the bottom of the heart stays at the bottom of the heart.”

Various tips for Theo throughout the letters:
  • “smoke a pipe when you are downcast;”
  • “dispose of your books;”
  • “do not immerse yourself too deeply in the worldly mire;”
  • “go on doing a lot of walking & keep up your love of nature;”
  • “enjoy yourself too much rather than too little;”
  • “don’t take art or love too seriously;”
  • “go and fall in love yourself and tell me about it;”
  • “become an artist.”

“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring at you like some imbecile. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. […] Life itself, too, is forever turning an infinitely vacant, disheartening, dispiriting blank side towards man on which nothing appears, any more than it does on a blank canvas. But no matter how vacant and vain, how dead life may appear to be, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, who knows something, will not be put off so easily.”

“Science – scientific reasoning – strikes me as being an instrument that will go a very long way in the future. For look: people used to think that the earth was flat. […] Life, too, is probably round, and much greater in scope and possibilities than the hemisphere we now know.”

“What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity or an eccentric or an obnoxious person – someone who has no position in society and never will have, in short the lowest of the low. Well, then – even if that were all absolutely true, I should one day like to show by my work what there is in the heart of such an eccentric, such a nobody.”
posted by mbrock at 9:05 AM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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