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Lotje writes a remarkable series of stories about famous people with a psychological vulnerability. This time she writes about Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch painter.

In his younger years Vincent tried various professions before he decided to dedicate his life to art. But he often felt like an outsider and he couldn’t recognise himself as the man he decided to be. He lived in Paris for a while but city life proved to be too hectic for him and he decided to retreat to the countryside, where he initially made a lot of dark paintings, before proceeding to lighter canvasses.

Though he often felt gloomy, he did make many sunny and happy paintings

When he lived in the south of France, he spent a lot of time with the painter Gaugain for a while, with whom he had heated discussions about art. Van Gogh experienced everything very thoroughly, was very emotional and put his heart and soul into everything he did. With his brother Theo he maintained an intense exchange of letters. In 1889 and 1890 he stayed at an asylum in Saint-Remy, in the north of France. He was very productive there and painted around 150 paintings, including the painting Almond Blossom.

Professor in Psychiatry Willem Nolen researched Vincent’s mental state.  From De Trouw (a Dutch daily newspaper) of the 31st of October 2020: You mention in your research that Van Gogh was an intelligent man with a strong willpower, resilience, and perseverance. “He remained active, he kept painting. Just not in his most depressive periods. But eventually he came out of those by picking his paintbrush back up. Painting had a therapeutic significance to him, he describes in several letters. It made him feel better.

In 1973 the Vincent Van Gogh museum was opened in Amsterdam

Each year the museum attracts two million visitors. His paintings are classed as post-impressionistic. What was innovative about this movement was the great appreciation of ‘an impression’. It was very different from what had been the usual art until then. It was a different way of seeing the world. While during his life his paintings were barely worth anything, they are now being sold for tens of millions of euros. Vincent’s sensitivity to impressions can be linked to his general sensitivity. Maybe you could even say that he became so successful because of his vulnerability to psychosis.

Autobiographical comic book writer Barbara created a story about his life and says the following about him: “His ideas about success, adversity, and a meaningful life constitute an interesting counterbalance in our time of individualism, feasibility, and economic thinking.”

From Vincent’s letters:

“Poverty and misery exist for a reason, and they can also be useful tools to gain oneself the necessary loneliness to immerse ourselves into any issue that we are dealing with.”

Van Gogh’s paintings inspired Don McLean to write the beautiful song Starry Starry Night.


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Image by Marieke Nijhoff
Translated from Dutch by SGM Taplin

Lotje is a valued family member, a listening ear for friends, a runner, a retired history teacher and Italian teacher.

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