Van Gogh: More Thoughts

The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin, Prov 10.8 (ESV).

I’m only a little over halfway through Van Gogh: A Life, a massive and fascinating look at the life of Vincent Van Gogh.  When I think about Van Gogh’s life, the passage from Proverbs comes to mind.  Van Gogh had a curious inability to see life from any other framework besides his own.  Incorrigible from a young age, he got so bad that his parents shipped him off to boarding school.  He carried this same incorrigibility into his adult life. 

He ended up moving home to Nuenen after his ill-fated attempt at being a missionary to Dutch miners, for all intents and purposes homeless.  He quickly became a thorn in the flesh of his parents, relentlessly accusing his father of not understanding or supporting him, and helplessly unable to see his father’s perspective.  The stress on his father was so great, that it ended up killing him, for all intents and purposes.  Van Gogh’s amazing lack of empathy or any feeling of responsibility for the death of his father was summed up by a statement he made to someone who came to view the body, “Dying is hard, but living his harder still.”

His perspective on life had changed radically as well since he returned to Nuenen.  He did a drawing of the church tower, entitled The Old Church Tower at Nuenen, 1885.  His comment about the drawing was, “Those ruins tell me how a faith and a religion moldered away, strongly founded though they were.”

Having read about his life, I would argue just how strongly his “faith” was ever held, but his life from this point continues to spiral downward.  His sister, Anna, essentially kicks him out of the house; he moves to Antwerp where his chief desire seems to have been looking for prostitutes to “paint,” or to put it in a modern sense he wanted them to be “models for his paintings (with benefits for him).”  He gets treated for syphilis, picked up from a prostitute; he continues not to sell any paintings.  Eventually, he moves to Paris to be a thorn in the side of his brother.

The more I learn about Van Gogh’s life, the more he reminds me of the fool, so prevalent in the book of Proverbs.  Unable to see life from any perspective but his own; unwilling to change his life to suit anyone but himself; willingly indulging whatever sensual desires came to mind; he is a perfect picture of a man given over completely to himself and his own desires without any regard for anyone or anything; truly a fool.  A sad life, as we shall see.

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