I was inspired– negatively, so... unspired?– by the fuss about a recent Frida Kahlo Barbie doll, of which the doll itself was probably the least offensive thing. Yes, it somewhat cleaned and prettied up a woman rightly famous for being a feminist and a communist who was ahead of her time in foregrounding … Continue reading All real artists get turned into a doll
Tag: Vincent Van Gogh
The first lesson is that during the late 1880s Vincent was more or less ignored by everyone in the art world except his brother Theo, and there was absolutely no prospect of any exhibition for Vincent’s work. In spite of this, he set himself the firm and no-excuses goal of making fifty paintings “worthy of exhibition” anyway. In the process he painted some of the works that are regarded as among his best. If I had £1 for every time an artist or a student told me they didn’t have time to make any work, I could probably just live from the proceeds of people saying they don’t have time to be artists. If it’s important to you, MAKE TIME.
The second lesson relates to the damage commerce does to art and artists. It comes from a letter to Theo about the July 1889 sale of a painting by Millet…
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“As far as I can judge, I am not actually mentally ill.” Vincent Van Gogh, shortly after cutting off part of his ear and giving it to a prostitute.
Poor old Vinnie has been pathologised in a hundred different ways: epilepsy, chemical poisoning, bipolar disorder, alcoholism. Clearly there was something seriously wrong with the paint-eating, ear-slashing, self-medicating and ultimately suicidal painter who sold almost nothing and was known to almost nobody during his lifetime. But in that last fact, it seems to me, lies a large and relatively simple part of the answer. As somebody who’s spent their whole adult life battling to become and remain a worthwhile artist and writer, and to much more success while I’m alive than Vincent ever had (albeit still not very much, and only really by default because he had no success or recognition at all), I can wholly sympathise with and understand his sadness…
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