In Alnwick, England this summer, there was this old train station that was remodeled into a secondhand bookstore and cafe, and I rummaged through the rows of musty old books, hoping to find the one I was searching for, Lust For Life by Irving Stone. I had read the book in high school, and had borrowed it from my art teacher. I loved it. I fell in love with the story of Vincent Van Gogh, even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of his work. But his biography, based off of letters between the eccentric and his brother Theo, made me appreciate them for what and who they represented.
As the stale pages filled my nostrils, I was growing wary that I would find anything on the artist. But I had struck gold. An older copy of the Portrait of Vincent: A Van Gogh biography by Lawrence and Elisabeth Mary Hanson. For £7.51, I had struck gold. Not only in literature but in art. The following weeks I read it every chance I got, and only managed halfway through, reading on the six hour coach ride to London.
In the preface, the Hansons wrote:
“the life of Van Gogh will always be to many people even more remarkable than his work - it is one of the most tragic and, regarded in a certain light, most inspiring stories in the world.”
This statement captures the essence of Vincent’s life better than anything. According to their version of the biography, he was not only a hardworking talented painter, but an effortless poet as well. These are some of my favorite quotes, either from the Hansons or Van Gogh himself.
“He walked with a good heart because he felt that something lay ahead of him; that the future would declare itself” (pg. 64)
“I’ll tell you what I’m like< i’m like a caged bird. In spring the bird feels there is something for him to do but he can’t do it. What/ He tries to remember. Then he remembers. He looks about him and cries to himself, ‘other birds are making their nests and laying eggs and bringing up their children’. He beats his head against the cage, but the cage is all around him, he can’t get out. He is maddened by anguish.” (pg. 67)
“So busy suffering that he barely recognized his first good living influence in art.” (pg. 93)
“If he could somehow express their lives so that others would understand, his own life would be justified.” (pg. 70)
“But a man conscious of a destiny working itself out will follow the slightest hint.” (pg. 63)
“To him, the painters’ job was to depict not the shadows of life but life as it was, a struggle, and to show that in this struggle alone true beauty was to be found.” (pg. 102)
- thisisnotwhatyouhadplanned posted this