Vincent van Gogh and patience

Van Gogh-church-at-auvers-1890.jpg!Large Is it possible that in the 21st century men and women are in a hurried state, both in mind and movement, more than those who lived in previous centuries? For without much effort it is easy to observe that in all walks of life, regardless of one’s location, there is a sense of urgency smothering the landscape and exuding an assumption that we are never caught up, that the more we do the more we feel we need to do. And as we rush about there too is a chronic din, a background noise of dissatisfaction. Accompanied with the belief that men and women today have a monopoly on being too busy is the conclusion that those who came before could not possibly understand that we today have so much more to accomplish.

But let us stand back and treat the problem by viewing it with a pragmatic approach; this problem that maligns our thoughts, this problem that haunts us and keeps us awake at night…this problem of too much to do and not enough time. If we were to inspect any device that tells time, from your antique Grandfather Clock that survived so many house moves, the one with the pendulum that still swings and dings at each hour, to the most efficient app on your phone that awards you with accurate time anywhere in the universe at any given moment; if you count the minutes from the first light of day to the blackest part of night, the total will still be only twenty-four hours. It is the same amount of time that humans have always been allotted to accomplish what they set out to do in any given day.

Then just perhaps what has diminished is actually not “time”, since mathematically that notion is completely erroneous… Perhaps we have whittled away a part of what was a human attribute and supplanted in its place another human attribute, frustration. Just perhaps it is our patience that has worn away like treads on tires that speed round and around on a race track. For although humans have always been in the market to improve time in order to more quickly accomplish our tasks, our chores, our day-to-day means of transportation, our ability to receive and send communication, although we have successfully sped up the inner workings within our world, we still must be patient… for within the space allocated in a single day it forever remains finite… no more no less, twenty-four hours. Like expanding a balloon, we are able to fill it with just so much air, and although by using a pump we can increase the speed at which the air enters such a playful object … it can only consume and occupy a fixed amount of space before…(well you know what happens)…… it pops!

van gogh 2 Today’s blog brings back a most original person, the esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch post- impressionist. Although he is recognized as one of our most gifted artists, this blogger finds that his writing is as expressive as many of his paintings. So, I have taken the liberty of extracting from his autobiography, Dear Theo, a most thoughtful observation.

Without further delay, enjoy a few moments out from you hectic day to enjoy his words. I now present Vincent van Gogh ….

“…There is a saying by *Gustave Dore which I have always admired: ‘J’ai la patience d’un boeuf’. I find in it a certain virtue, a certain resolute honesty. It is the word of a real artist. Ought one not to learn patience from nature, learn patience from seeing the corn slowly ripen, seeing things grow? …

Hardly a day passes now that I do not produce one thing or another. I cannot but make progress; each drawing one completes, each study one paints is a step forward. It is the same as on a road: one sees the church spire at the end, but there is another bit of road one did not see at first, and which must be covered. But one comes nearer and nearer. Sooner or later, I shall arrive at the point of beginning to sell….”

*Gustave Doré : French artist, engraver and illustrator (1832-1888). Translation: “I have the patience of an ox”
First Image: The Church at Auvers by Vincent van Gogh (1890)
Second image: Self-Portrait of Van Gogh (1889)

Vincent van Gogh and his thoughts on art

van gogh museumMuseums are the windows to the past. They house treasures that have been unearthed, borrowed from other civilizations, reassembled from a time long ago, or displayed for the very first time. They are a wonderland of things that allow each of us admission to a time, place, or experience where we can become intimate with another. Museums come in many forms, some are for objects such as furniture, some are for prehistoric relics like dinosaur bones and fossils, some are for paintings and sculpture, and there are even museums for the news. Whatever the pleasures of men and women there is likely to be a collection somewhere displayed in some building…and fortunately saved for posterity.

Let’s look more closely at the fine art museum, a place where differing sets of values have decidedly created the spaces for viewing. There is modern art, classical art, ancient art, abstract art, and so on and so forth…and with each generation that visits and for each group of curators that have established the exhibitions, so has the appreciation for what we determine as “art” run the gambit. If we were to examine works through the ages we would find that a vast number of contemporaries often yearned for what came before. Many who lived during the age of “modern art” in the 1960s either liked the “new” works or scorned it… many longing for the look, feel, and style of “the past”. So it is with so many things, we often desire a return for what came before… and the appreciation for art is no different.

flower buds van gogh Today’s blog revisits the words of our esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch artist that hardly needs any introduction. A kind and troubled man who graced us with his gifts…where his paintings will forever be noted as “a Van Gogh” and we will all understand what that means…. although he lived a pauper’s existence he never extinguished his calling, art…

Let us now take a few minutes to look over his shoulder and read the words from a letter (1883) to his brother Theo …and we reaffirm that time stands still and often things we feel today have really not changed….

“… It makes me more nervous than is good for me to try to talk with people about my work. And what is the result? A refusal or being put off with fair promises. I assure you that I feel less energy for my work when I have been among people. …….I do not doubt that my wok has fault, but neither do I doubt that I am not quite wrong, and that I shall succeed, be it only after long seeking. And I do believe that it is dangerous to look for success elsewhere.
I think there is a difference between art appreciation today and that of earlier years. There used to be more passion both in the making and in the judging of works of art. This or that work was chosen deliberately; one side or the other was energetically taken. There was more animation. Now I think there is a spirit of capriciousness and satiety; people are in general more lax. Some time ago I wrote that I had noticed there was since Millet* a marked decline, as though the summit had been reached and decadence had begun. This has its influence on everybody and everything. …”

*Jean-Francois Millet (1814 – 1875) French realist painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France; best known for his paintings of peasants.

Esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh

hayThere are very few things that humanity agrees upon except perhaps when it comes to nature. Not even those who consider themselves city dwellers are devoid of Mother Nature’s presence nor can they ignore her. Even in the most congested conditions does one find a flowering weed growing between the cracks of cement, whereupon our hearts delight with its determination. Even in the smoggiest of days do we feel her resolve, releasing the sun’s rays or sprinkling rain upon a thirsty sidewalk…for these are the doings, the free spirit that belongs to nature… And of course there are the forever vistas that we witness along the shores or on the precipice of a mountain…scenes that make us heave with a great sigh of gladness.

We would be hard-pressed to find someone that has not recorded mentally or digitally nature … for we hold her in universal awe. It is a theme that has inspired the artists of the world and in tribute they have dedicated works in her honor.

Today’s blog introduces one of the most famous artists in history, a man who I believe was greatly misunderstood and unfortunately best known for his physiological breakdown during which he cut off part of his left ear with a razor; an event in his life that has became synonymous with his name… Esteemed thinker: Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was a largely self taught artist and considered one of the greatest Post-Impressionists. His bold and colorful style of painting became an influence on his successors, where his approach to expressionism was adopted by generations of followers. Though his work was never honored during his lifetime, his masterpieces now have become part of what we recognize as genius.

van gogh hay stack So without anymore fanefare, I bring to you the thoughts of this humble man which I have extracted from his letters to his brother, Theo. Set aside a moment and read the words of Vincent Van Gogh …

“… Many landscape painters do not possess that intimate knowledge of nature which those have who from childhood have looked at the fields. Many landscape painters as men (though we appreciate them as artists) give something that satisfies neither you nor me. You will say that everyone has seen landscapes and figures from childhood on. The question is: Has everybody also been reflective as a child? Has everybody who has seen them also loved heath, fields, meadow, woods, and the snow and the rain and the storm? Not everybody has done that as you and I have: it is a peculiar kind of surroundings and circumstances that must contribute to such knowledge of nature; it is a peculiar kind of temperament and character, too, that must help to make it take root…”