The Legacy of a Misfit

Posted by Sooz on Thursday, January 13, 2011 | No Comments

“There may be a great fire in our soul, but no one ever comes to warm himself by it, all that passers-by can see is a little smoke coming out of the chimney, and they walk on.                             -Vincent Van Gogh

A great fire indeed…Vincent Van Gogh was a brightly burning soul, yet he lived his life in solitude and sadness. He was repeatedly misunderstood and rejected by others. He felt he was a misfit, a social outcast, and eventually he despaired for it.

The story of Van Gogh is a fascinating and compelling one. Today we know him as a great artist, but few know the depths of his heart and his goodness. Over time, I want to share with you some of the beautiful and touching things Vincent said, some of his heroic deeds, and his innermost thoughts. For me, he is a perfect example of why we MUST listen to each other and learn each other’s stories. How many amazing artists and creative lights have been shut out for lack of understanding? How many beautiful people have felt abandoned by the world and been sucked down by the undertow?

I found an entry in my journal from July 14th, 2008. I had written that day about Vincent. I want to share it with you, but first you should know that Vincent longed to capture in his work the common man doing common chores, and depict him with the dignity he deserved. He always dreamed that his paintings would hang in a simple man’s work place and bring a little joy. Please also recall that Vincent sold only one painting in his lifetime.

Written while on vacation in Maine…

“I explored the Goodwill Store in Bath yesterday. I was finishing up 3 loads of laundry at the “Wash Tub”, and I needed a little diversion, so I went a few doors up to the Goodwill. As I made my way around to the back of the store, I saw reproductions of two of Vincent’s paintings. They were prints pinned to the wall, tattered and worn, but still holding a place of honor.

It struck me how glad Vincent would have been to see that over one hundred years after his death, the common man is still enjoying his work. Just as he had hoped, his work was bringing a little joy and life to the everyday man. It would bless him, I think, to know that even the least privileged among the masses could now have access to his art.”

Vincent died a sad and disillusioned man, but his goodness lives on. He had no way to anticipate that the hope he tried to paint into his work would end up being seen and appreciated by millions of people for decades and likely centuries to come. He put his heart and his passion into his work with no promise of reward and no realized success. It was his deepest desire to comfort others and to express hope though his work.

“I want so much to make something comforting, something that makes one think.”    -Vincent Van Gogh, The Hague, 30 May 1883

Despite his own sorrow and numerous personal obstacles, Vincent was able to leave a legacy of goodness. You can too.

What do you want your work to say to the world?  We are listening…

“Goodness leaves a lasting legacy”

A “Good” Idea:

If you would like to learn more about Vincent Van Gogh, you can read his own words as written to his brother Theo. Vincent had a deep affection for Theo, and over the years the brothers shared many letters that reveal the heart of the artist and his desire to make an impact on the world through his painting. We recommend this web exhibit of the letters as a helpful resource. It is easy to use and navigate.  http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh

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