PAINTED WITH WORDS: Who are you Vincent?


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On April Fools’ Day this year I watched Van Gogh: Painted With Words on ABC1.[SUP]1 [/SUP] It has taken me 3 weeks to find the right combination of time and circumstance to write a few words about this moving docudrama. I won’t tell you chapter and verse about the content of this TV program; you can read all about it, if you are interested at one of the many internet sites on the subject. There is also an immense bibliography that is devoted to van Gogh. You might call it the van Gogh industry.

My interest in this doco was heightened by the use of van Gogh’s letters which, for the millions who would have seen this doco since it came out more than two years ago, brought Vincent brilliantly and evocatively alive. Perhaps one of England’s great young actor’s Benedict Cumberbatch also helped to heighten my viewing pleasure.

I’ve had an interest in van Gogh and his letters for years. My wife has had Arnold Pomerans’, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh( London: Penguin Classics, 1997) on her book shelves for many years. Van Gogh’s temperamental instability due to his bipolar disorder among other causative factors has been of interest to me since I also suffer from BPD. His intense religious predispositions and mine have also drawn me toward this now famous artist.[SUP]2[/SUP]

Van Gogh’s letters are the best autobiography of an artist that we have, noted The Economist. Vincent wrote mostly to his brother, over 800 letters, to stave-off loneliness and perhaps achieve some psychic integration.[SUP]3[/SUP] Irving Stone used van Gogh’s letters to write his bio-history, his biographical novel.[SUP]4 [/SUP]-Ron Price with thanks to [SUP]1[/SUP]ABC1, 4-5 p.m., 1 April 2012>BBC 11 & 14 April 2010, [SUP]2[/SUP] go to this link for Vincent’s religious views:; mine are due to my intense association with the Baha’i Faith over 60 years; [SUP]3[/SUP]Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker(eds.), Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters, 6 Vols., Thames and Hudson, 2009, and [SUP]4[/SUP]Irving Stone, Lust for Life, 1934.

Did you need to work yourself
to mental exhaustion, Vincent?
You were clearly a driven man.
If you had had these wonderful
meds that I have been given off
& on for the last 40 years, what
would happened to you Vincent?

Would you have been able to get
an erection?[SUP]1 [/SUP]…It’s all guesswork
for us even with the research that
is now available to scholars & the
historians available for this book.[SUP]2[/SUP]

You were not so good at personal
relationships, eh Vincent? As you
went headlong into your life-work,
into crisis after crisis, inner torment
after inner torment, the personal, the
relationships of yours were a disaster
as you said.[SUP]3[/SUP]….But the depth of your
inner life is still unplumbed as it is for
all of us…..Does anyone ever find out
who, what, their real self is, Vincent?!?[SUP]4[/SUP]

[SUP]1[/SUP] Alex Danchev, Vincent Van Gogh’s tartan torment in The Times Literary Supplement, 21 March 2012. A Review of Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s, Van Gogh: The Life.
[SUP]2 [/SUP]Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s 1000 page book, which came out in late 2011, Van Gogh: The Life had a team of 20 researchers and a database so vast that it required custom software and a team of digital scholars---so runs the press release.
[SUP]3 [/SUP]Van Gogh wrote: “I have no talent for relationships” and “I can’t help that.”-Alex Danchev, op. cit.

[SUP]4[/SUP] The literature that now exists on this enigmatic question is burgeoning. The Real Self theory in politics and philosophy proposes that people often have a private "real will" or real self, that is different from their public "expressed will". As good a place to start as any on this mysterious question is at this link: But this link is just a start. All the major religions and philosophies, to say nothing of the several dozen theories of personality in psychology, have a take on this subject, this topic and the issues related to it.

Ron Price
20 April 2012

John Watt

In high school I was very influenced by Van Gogh, buying a book with all his works,
my brother buying a book of his letters.

I can't add much more to what you have inputted, a grand posting,
but please, you don't have to associate all of Vincent's behaviors with disease.
He was drinking that alcohol in France that became illegal, absinthe, people hallucinating with it,
and in Arles, when he couldn't get that, he was drinking his paint thinners.
For someone who drew with oil paint, copying what was then new Japanese print styles,
he was a brilliant artist.
They let me feel one of his paintings in the Art Gallery of Toronto, in the early seventies.