Sunday Snippet: Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

“It is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.”

Since I am currently exploring Amsterdam as part of my Europe trip, I thought it would only be appropriate to highlight one of the best known names in Dutch history. Known for famous paintings like The Starry Night and Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, he is also (unfortunately) known for cutting off his own left ear. Perhaps it is no coincidence that some of the greatest artists this world has ever seen also happen to be a little strange.

In the quote above, he reminds us of two very important life lessons. First, you have to be willing to take your chances. You have to be willing to go out there in the world with high spirits, fully aware that you will make mistakes along the way. This is the only way that you are going to achieve great things, because restricting yourself to a very narrow field of view will restrict your possibilities.

Second, he reminds us of the value of love and why it is the source of true strength. When you truly love someone (or something) and this love drives to you perform much, that is how you will be able to accomplish much. Indeed, the artists who pursue art for art’s sake are the ones who can be free from the shackles of convention and truly explore their creativity to its fullest.

What is amazing is that Vincent van Gogh didn’t start painting until his late twenties and he died at the very young age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot. Even so, he was able to produce over 2,000 pieces of art during that time and many of his most famous works came from the last two years of his life. Indeed, though a Dutch national, he found a lot of his greatest inspiration when he traveled to Arles in the south of France. Surrounded by all those beautiful vistas and colors, Van Gogh produced over 300 paintings and drawings there.

“Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.”

A world filled with love and high spirits can be one that is truly beautiful. The challenge for the painter, as is the challenge for the writer, is to capture those beautiful moments such that they can be conveyed to the audience.