Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Heartbreaking Quote From a Staggering Genius

I have never read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; the title seems very pretentious, though perhaps the author was being intentionally ironic (or perhaps the publisher chose the title for him). However, I recently read a Vincent van Gogh quote that is best described as a heartbreaking quote from a staggering genius:

"I can't change the fact that my paintings don't sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture."

readers may recall that George Ohr expressed similar sentiments about his work. A genius knows full well that he is a genius, even if it takes the rest of the world a few decades to figure it out.

It is a terrible indictment of our world that van Gogh died in poverty after scarcely selling a canvas but now other people--people who have but a fraction of the talent he possessed--make fortunes buying and selling the works he suffered so greatly to create. Art historian Ingo Walther says of Van Gogh, "He sought consolation in his art from the world and life which he loved, but whose love was not returned. He suffered in this world and was destroyed by it. With his art he created his own new world, which was full of color and movement and contained everything he knew about existence." Camille Pissarro, van Gogh's contemporary (and fellow genius), declared about van Gogh, "This man will either go insane or leave us all far behind." Van Gogh ultimately fulfilled both aspects of Pissarro's prediction: he produced more than 2000 works of art in a little over a decade (plus hundreds of letters that detailed the workings of a brilliant but quite troubled mind) before killing himself at the age of 37. Van Gogh's brother Theo said that Vincent's last words were, "The sadness will last forever."

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