Having fought with a major networking problem all weekend long, I’m kind of tired. So you must forgive me for taking the easy way out and noting that Vincent van Gogh was born on this day in 1853. I put it that way, because van Gogh is probably the most overrated painter in history. I don’t say that because he wasn’t a great painter; he was very much a great painter. Nor do I say it just because his paintings commonly sell for around $100 million dollars a piece. I say it because of which paintings sell. It is generally his weaker paintings.
Of course, it is a matter of opinion. I like van Gogh most when his painting is more like Gauguin. The less impressionistic his work is, the better. When he was doing his usual style—the one that people seem to like so much—he was incredibly repetitive. I especially don’t like his explicit lines in most of that work. But things like Bedroom in Arles are transcendent. And I’m especially impressed with The Zouave (half-figure) (although the full-figure is arguably even better):
I am especially interested in van Gogh’s relationship with his brother Theo. I think it is wonderful that the two were so close and that Theo was so dedicated to Vincent’s art. But then, I have a tendency to romanticize van Gogh. I saw a documentary that proposed what is probably an unlikely theory: that some boys accidentally shot van Gogh, and he didn’t say anything in order to cover for them. So: no suicide, just an honorable man doing his best for some youths. Even if it’s just a story, I prefer to believe it.
Here is Jonathan Richman doing his very sweet homage to the artist:
Happy birthday Vincent van Gogh!