I think my interest in Van Gogh goes back to the sunflowers we painted in Mary Jones’ class in Lower School. He always struck me as the epitome of the “crazy artist.” I tried to decide between art and psychology for my Capstone project and realized that with Van Gogh I could do both.
It’s amazing to realize that this hugely influential Post-Impressionist who became a major influence on 20th century art only became a full-time artist after feeling like he’d failed at everything else he tried. He was deeply religious early in his life, for instance, studied for the ministry and failed.
In doing my research, I found myself at first irritated and frustrated by all his craziness.
So I turned to the three paintings of his that I was recreating: Peasant Man and Woman Planting Potatoes, Starry Night, and one of his many paintings of sunflowers. With a lot of help from Mrs. Reyes and others, my confidence as an artist, a painter, grew, which was new to me.
When I returned to my research, I found myself understanding him better and sympathizing with him more. He endured so much adversity in his short life. The list of his possible maladies is long, including epilepsy, a brain lesion, bipolar disorder, chronic anxiety, severe depression. He was in and out of mental hospitals. Some speculate that his later fondness for bold colors, especially yellow, may have been due to the yellow spots he saw as a side effect of a medication he took regularly.
But many of the problems he struggled with are problems we all struggle with, just to a more extreme extent. His struggles with religion, which he came to reject, and with self-actualization, are very Modernist problems. I think his position now as one of the most popular painters of all time stems in part from the fact that he’s so human in his problem-ridden self. He’s no art god on a pedestal. He’s a deeply flawed human being struggling to overcome his problems and express his authentic self.
Read more about Capstone 2015 here.