One hundred and thirty years ago today, Vincent Van Gogh spent his thirtieth birthday re-reading Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. How do I know this? It is one of the many, many details about the artist revealed in a comprehensive and compelling book, Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, which I am currently reading. Its revelations and insights are a must for those who want a better understanding of the artist.
Vincent Van Gogh has been my favorite artist since I was a child. I don’t remember when he came into my consciousness; perhaps it was the first time I saw and was awed by Starry Night. As evidence that both home and school play a part in imparting the appreciation of art in a child, I remember poring over a Time-Life book, The World of Van Gogh 1853-1890, that my mother bought our family when I was a teenager (Thanks, Mom!) As a high school student, I painted a copy of Van Gogh’s Thatched Cottages at Cordeville, 1890, for an assignment. It was a study in shades of green and blue with an abundance of Vincent’s trademark brushstrokes. Imagine my pleasure when, as an adult, I came upon the original in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.
I celebrate Vincent’s birthday today on behalf of myself, and all whose lives were made infinitely richer because he lived and created the kind of art that lives forever in our hearts.