Friday, November 29, 2013

Through the Eyes of a Dead Artist

It's funny that we often think of artists as geniuses who are somehow vindicated during their own lifetimes. In striking contrast, this is not always the case. Some artists never get to realize the impact that they have on history. They die frustrated, their unsold paintings haunting them as they fade into (what they believe to be) relative obscurity. It is only years later that art collectors and historians give their work significance, sparking interest in the paintings of a dead man. Probably one of the most famous examples of this is Vincent Van Gogh, who was a virtual failure in life. In this touching clip from the British show Doctor Who, Vincent is allowed the chance to hear a docent speak about the lasting impact that "Vincent Van Gogh" has had on painting.

Here's the link to the youtube video: Doctor Who Van Gogh Scene


  1. Just visited the Cincinnati Art Museum. Van Gogh was a good choice, both for the episode and for your point. As someone who knows little about painting or visual art, aside from photography, it is sometimes difficult to definitively say for sure which pieces, among a certain baseline level, are better than others. A non-artist simply lacks the appropriate, immersion forged vocabulary in such cases, I think, to express anything more than a wholly subjective preference. However, with Van Gogh, I think any art illiterate individual, including myself, can look at one of his paintings and know immediately that, though it may be difficult to articulate why, his work is a class apart from the merely talented artists throughout history. It's that universal quality, that observed ability to transcend the "language" barrier, so to speak, encountered by the non-expert, and assert its genius, which makes the case of Van Gogh's initial popular failure such a mystery to me. The man must have been awfully unlucky.

  2. What though makes his art so much better than other Impressionists? I feel like most people, myself included, are ignorant of any other impressionists other that Monet and Van Gogh. Why are these two regarded as so important?

    1. I think Van Gogh tends to fall in more with the post-impressionists, but I see your point. I think that sometimes it's easier for us to only focus on one or two artists from a particular movement, making these figures the face of the given style. From an education system standpoint, teachers can cover such a large and expansive history much easier if they only give the cliff notes version by focusing on specific artists. This does not make other artists from the same movements any less meaningful, it just makes it easier for the general masses to digest.