Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Van Gogh for Our Times

As the times go, so goes Van Gogh. Toiling in relative obscurity during his life, known by fellow painters but not by the public at large, Vincent Van Gogh’s greatest career move was dying in 1890. First Theo, his brother, then Jo, Theo’s widow, spread the gospel of Vincent and transformed the strange man who made strange pictures into the embodiment of the tortured artist cruelly snubbed by a public unprepared to recognize his genius. As the times changed, that essential picture of Vincent adjusted to the times: pre-war German Expressionists adopted him as a fellow angst-master, Irving Stone’s Lust for Life pictured a pious painter perfectly portrayed in film by the young, manly Kirk Douglas, Don McLean warbled “Starry, Starry Night” for a fragile Vincent from the trippy Sixties. Just as those various Vincents grow tired and quaint, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith come along with a Van Gogh for our times in Van Gogh: The Life. The Vincent in their pages reflects our times: conflicted, troubled, and, now, digital. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "A Van Gogh for Our Times."

[Image: Vincent Van Gogh. Self-Portrait (detail), 1887.]

[Many thanks to Random House for providing me with a review copy of Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.]

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