“What do you want your artist’s to be?

“What do you want your artist’s to be?…Must they be clothed by your tailor?”  These words, spoken by younger brother Theo in the play Vincent, seem to sum up in two short questions the collateral damage inflicted upon experimental artists at the end of the 19th century for the temerity of turning their gaze away from the accepted Art of the past in favor of this new phenomena leading to the avant-garde.  Early in the start of the second half of the play Vincent, Theo looks directly out to the audience and asks “When will you stop?  When will it ever stop?”

Moments later Theo quotes a letter he received from Vincent wherein the troubled artist states:  “I have done no harm to anyone?

So,  what are your thoughts/feelings about the life and career of Vincent van Gogh?  Is there room in your life for artists, thinkers, writers, etc. like Vincent van Gogh?

Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait at the Easel, 1888

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

27 Comments

27 thoughts on ““What do you want your artist’s to be?”

  1. Vincent van Gogh’s life is fascinating to me. A man dealing with so many of his own demons and unsure of his path in life. Being an experimental artist clearly did not make his life easier. He wanted people to love his art and understand his work, however at the time society was not ready for his style. It seems as if Vincent was unsure why his art was not well received, and he struggled with that. You can see that when he says “I have done no harm to anyone?” I cannot imagine living in a time where you are seen as possessed because of an illness, while also being such a revelation in the art world yet society not being open to the style. I feel as if, throughout history, you can see the struggles of artists, inventors etc. as they move beyond what society has accepted. As they push or break those boundaries they are seen as crazy, unstable or even in some cases, evil.
    The relationship that Theo and Vincent had was strong yet tragic. Theo felt responsible for Vincent, yet he was Vincent’s strongest supporter. But after years of supporting him and watching him continue to struggle took a toll on Theo. What a dilemma to be in. To believe and support your beloved brother, yet watch as his passion (some may say obsession) consumes him. To then lose him in such a tragic way. I think to understand Vincent’s life you must understand the relationship between Vincent and Theo.
    I personally cannot express how much room is in my life for artists, thinkers, writers etc. like Vincent van Gogh. I would love for my life to be filled, my family to be surrounded by these types of creators. I know that it may seem strange, as Vincent had dark demons to deal with, but I feel as if having a community of likeminded creators would only help cultivate an environment of safety, creativity and success. I am a creator, I try to surround myself with other creators because it creates a community of encouragement and an environment of productivity. I would love to have more artists, thinkers and writers like Vincent in my life right now.

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  2. It’s very vital in our society today to include people with similarities in comparison to Vincent Van Gough. He shows the raw reality of what it is like to be a struggling artist. There’s typically few images and words attached to the career choice of an ,” Artist “. Being creative is a given when describing artists. Happy, successful and well known are other adjectives that many seem to automatically attach when hearing, “He/She is an artist”

    Vincent was not successful at first, and this among other things made him unhappy. This is what makes him unique and his struggle was well worth it. I believe many artists can relate to him, especially in today’s world where the competition among each other is so high. Although, he was competing with himself more so than with others at his time.

    One starts to question what is wrong with themselves when they see the potential in their own work and others still don’the seem to appreciate it. Despite his indifference , I still see him as a great artist. It’s sad he did not get the chance to see his work rise to fame. Better late, than never. We all can appreciate his struggle because with it came greatness.

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  3. I’ve always admired Vincent Van Gogh in every aspect. He had a lot of personal problems to deal with. Who doesn’t? I can’t say for certain if he was born at the wrong place or wrong time. Despite his personal suffering, he was put upon this earth at the perfect time and place. Otherwise, where would modern art be now? Theo was put upon this earth as Vincent’s brother and, in a sense, his only true protector. They represent true brotherly love. Vincent is lucky to have someone support him the way Theo does. My parents support me as well, but Vincent and Theo’s relationship seems elevated on a higher level. Their lives seem very much driven by fate. Vincent truly suffered for his art. Its a shame that people didn’t understand him at all. If he surrounded himself with more like-minded people often, then maybe he wouldn’t have suffered so much. There is so much of his art that I’ve never seen until now! People only seem to recall Starry Night and his self portraits. Or at least point out his impressionistic style. Its amazing to me how much love he had for everything. His personal demons scare people off, but it hides the fact that he loved and cared for everything deeply. His passion was too much for people. Its like holding a candle and making sure nothing gets set on fire. There is plenty of room in my life for artists, thinkers, and others like Van Gogh in my life! I think I too, am lacking like-minded people that help and inspire me. I’m not afraid of people’s personal demons or eccentric personalities because I fall within those categories as well. Its that type of thinking that will help introduce new methods and ideas. Society will advance further and acts as a powerful tool to change the world for the better. If Van Gogh knew how influential he truly was and lived to tell about it, I think he would’ve found true satisfaction and happiness within his life. More than he ever felt in the short time he was alive.

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  4. The opinion of Van Gogh is a mixed one. We want to have artists who are not afraid to create outside the box. It can be hard when art collectors, and viewers are looking for something specific. We know that if we fall under a creation category of artwork we have more chances of being “successful” . There’s nothing wrong with that; but if we want more Van Gogh’s then we have to let them express themselves in different. Some feel that they need to be set free in order to make the art that they want, when the truth is they can do whatever they want. They have to know that what they want to create is real for them without outsiders saying what they can an can’t do.

    It’s important that artists understand that Van Gogh’s mental health issues where there before he became and artists. It could have been anything that triggered that. However, his focus was on his art so it’s easy to assume it’s what caused it. I don’t think we should be afraid to create if that means less people tell us how we should.

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  5. I wish more people supported Vincent through his hard times. This artist had creativity, passion, greatness, but most importantly..loneliness. He had so much to give and was only able to express that through his paintings. Since he was rejected by his community, he was afraid to share his paintings too. I would enjoy to be around more people like him, to support each other and be in a like-minded community. A community where one can share their passion and not be turned away.

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  6. Vincent van Gogh is definitely one of a kind. Before taking this class, I didn’t know much about him other than he painted Starry Night and he cut his own ear off. Now that I’ve learned so much about him, I really appreciate the fact that he continued making art even after all the criticism he received. He also went through many internal hardships but still managed to produce some of the most well known pieces of art in the world. His passion for art overcame everything standing in his way. Although he did exhibit some unusual behavior, I think the world would benefit from more people like him.

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  7. My feelings of Vincent van Gogh’s life is an overall tone of sorrow. I feel that a great artist was under appreciated and tormented by others about his mental health. Vincent went through a lot of troublesome times throughout his life with only one person that supported him, which was his brother. Basically everyone else ridiculed him and had a hostile attitude towards him. Vincent was not fully mentally stable, but he was able to create these beautiful masterpieces. Theo could see the greatness in Vincent’s work, and questioned why others shunned him so harshly. Most people assumed he was so made that he ended his own life, but now it seems like that was the case. Theres a good possibility he was killed by some neighbor kids that didn’t like him. He was clearly a misunderstood man that had great talents that weren’t appreciated until after his death.
    There is definitely room in my life for artist, thinkers, writers, etc. These types of people focus on the importance of life and human existence. They are brave enough to question society and existence itself which I believe helps us all expand our knowledge of our world.

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  8. It would be nice if there were artists like Vincent Van Gogh. Sure he had some troubles in his life, but so do many people in this generation. And many people who are crazy are not always bad, but deep down, brilliant, in which they have come up with stories that intrigue people. Kind of like Hunter “Patch” Adams, although funny while medical professional. Point is, sometimes people who are like Vincent are not liked since they are views as insane and cannot be helped. Yet they make for interesting stories and documentaries.

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  9. Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most important artist in art history. He had hard times when he was alive, it is a fact that he remain as one of a kind. It might be better if more people supported Van Gogh was alive, but hard time made him stronger. I did not know that he had hard times when he was alive before taking this class, but as taking this class, I understand how his great works came out. I admire him and his work and his quote, that “I have done no harm to anyone?”.

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  10. For a person and artist like Van Gogh, it was a struggle to find a place to be in the world, to find a place to fit in and feel at ease. I think the reason that Vincent was so prolific was because he finally found a place to put himself, in his paintings and drawings and writings. It seems that with the chaos inflicted upon his life and mind by the illness he suffered from actually pushed him into the habit of making art because that is when he found freedom from his suffering. Of course, many great artists have suffered in their lives either for their art or before they made art or because they made art, so to discount a person’s choice to be an artist by saying that they have no place to be making art (for whatever reason) is gravely insulting. The reason that I think so many artists choose to make art is because the work is truly where they can put themselves, the work is where they feel the most like their true self. I certainly have found my place in the world by being in the art field, and even though I doubt myself sometimes, I think if I had not made the conscious decision to be an artist then I would certainly be lost. And without a doubt there is certainly room in my life for artists like Vincent, artists who struggle with themselves but still find the strength to continue making art even if it’s not what the world is ready for.

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  11. I believe that we need more people, not just artists, like Vincent van Gogh; people that aren’t afraid to experiment and break away from the norm. People like Vincent, who are unfortunately almost always seen as crazy, are the ones that make important progress in their respective field. Without experimentation their is no progress. I really admire what Vincent van Gogh did and find it sad that those around him didn’t give him and his work a chance. It must have required a lot of strength for Vincent to continue creating paintings, despite all the negativity that was constantly thrown at him.

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  12. I think everyone has room in their life for artists, thinkers, writers and the like, they contribute way more to our society then given credit for. I feel for Vincent’s troubled past, he was an artist that was starved for acknowledgement and had the purest intentions with his art. It’s very unfortunate that his genuine attitude towards life and art wasn’t admired during his lifetime. The thing I respect the most about vincent is how he never let go of his passion for art, regardless of the struggles he faced. He was so unbelievably patient and optimistic that you could clearly see how much he loved painting/drawing. Its inspiring as an artist to see how persistent and hardworking Vincent was because it’s easy to feel discouraged and give up especially in this field.

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  13. Vincent Van Gogh is truly a wonderful example of a tortured artist. I think all people can be considered artists in one way or another. I also believe that all humans go through stages of life in which they are mentally tortured. By having the courage to stand up to the norms and create such emotional work, I think Van Gogh should be idolized. Unfortunately, his tortured mind got the best of him, but this happens to many people. Most of which, people whom do not creatively express themselves and share their inner dilemmas with the rest of the world. He was a lonely human, just like the rest of us. He was never able to find his way, but I think his work should serve as a representation of the inner struggles and we should all find inspiration from the process. I guess what I am saying is, I want my artist’s to be real and address reality.

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  14. Honestly, the life of Vincent Van Gogh is just really tragic. He was misunderstood and really wanted people to have a great feeling as they do with music through his own art. Though that was a motive, he wasn’t as recognized as the artist he is today after death and that’s unfortunate. Today he is looked at as a brilliant artist with a distinct style with line and strokes, and an eye for scenery. Suffering with illnesses, loneliness, and living pretty much unknown while making a name is difficult and I can’t really emphasise that. I also read that he even sold just one or quite a few paintings after making so many paintings. He dedicated much of his time for his passion and the result wasn’t as great. For me, I consider him such a strong and inspiring artist not only for his art, but his motivation to continue his passion. Despite the unfortunate outcomes in his life, he had an eye for the beauty of the world and stuck true to his passion. I truly look up to individuals with this mindset because of such optimistic attitude.To see other artists or people to keep on going despite the true and unfair world shows how strong they are.

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  15. I feel like the work that resonates the most with a person is something that reflects a piece of themselves, so I think it is important to have artists that can express a feeling of sadness, confusion, anger, or otherwise because it may be the only way to convey what so many feel inside. He was mistreated because people didn’t understand his personal struggles, but I think in today’s society we are a lot more open to seeing a representation of something like depression in an artist’s work because it is something so many people feel, but cant give a visual too. I think it is a necessity to take note of artists who can successfully take a feeling, or a thought, and create something tangible for others to understand.

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  16. We look, but do we see.
    It is hard to fathom the hero that is sifted from the judgmental soils of society.
    Are we not filled, fulfilled, with the latest, the trends, the updates, the fortunes and consumption?
    Is the access to worldly, instant, limitless data at our fingertips not sufficient?
    The power to connect with anyone, anytime around the globe must be enough to satisfy any insatiable yearning for human contact, the need for emotional support and engaging contemplative dialog.
    Infinite resources, images and to-the-second accounts of any event surely must be an adequate catalyst that fortifies our minds, challenges our thoughts and propel us in a progressive fashion.
    Why then would we even consider to lift our eyes and see you, the artist, the thinker, the writer?
    What void could you possibly fill.

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  17. The distinction between artists who are stimulated to act a way due to their personal life and those who wish to play on the idea of personifying their character with faux experiences help define what is of note and attention for audiences of artists. Vincent played the role of social deviant and troubled soul because of the fact that he underwent events that are the foundations of these experiences. His story is just as important as it is enticing because it gives people a view of what a person can undergo and how they are able to come out of it. Vincent responded through his art, others in their own craft. Once artists, or simply people for that matter, begin creating their being based on what they wish they could be (i.e. rich, famous, talented, charismatic, etc.) the products in which they produce become a false window. Vincent and others like him are an asset to the world as they go through the experiences and struggles for us and allow us to experience it with them without going through the same mistakes and pains. Faux personalities give us nothing but manufactured these experience and thus do not allow us to grow from them.

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  18. I believe Vincent opened a path for other artists that are very similar to him in a sense that they are different and started from scratch with being an artist. After completing a certain amount of work that displays improvement from the first and you don’t receive the recognition you deserve it can be hard. At this stage, you have someone that is dealing with problems mentally and amongst their field of occupation and you have to decide, what’s next? In today’s society we have plenty of artist like Vincent, you just have to find them. If those artist were given mor than half the time Vincent was given they might be great as well.

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  19. Vincent van Gogh’s life and career as an artist was tragic. It is basically like the title “a struggling artist” but magnified. He went through so much to share his art with the world, but was never accepted just because he was “different” from society’s norms. I truly feel for him because it is hard being different and being unaccepted by people. In today’s society it is completely opposite from his time. As an artist now you need to be different and stand out from the rest. People experiment with anything and everything to create unique artwork. In my life, I accept artists, thinkers, writers, and more that were like Vincent van Gogh. I feel that being associated with unique people make life more worth living because they have such a different view on the world. They have a certain ability which opens up a whole new world for others and I believe that I and others could benefit from it.

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    1. I think Vincent represents what we think of as the stereotypical starving or eccentric artist. While we know that these eccentricities were the manifestation of mental illness that stereotype still exists today. Thankfully now society is a little (just a little though) more understanding of mental illness. I do think this brings up an interesting take on the artistic stereotype. Vincent was so misunderstood at the time, he was different and that turned people away from him. This problem led his psychological problems to get worse, but it also probably led him to delve deeper into his art. These days it’s perfectly acceptable, maybe even encouraged, for artists to be a little “off”. I wonder what Vincent’s life would have been like if people of his time recognized and understood what was going on in his mind.

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  20. What does it mean to be an artist? Personally, I think it’s an expression of myself. I’m still trying to find myself as an artist but Vincent’s unique style was never accepted for how different it was to the old masters. That’s the problem many artists had leading up to the 20th century where the avante-garde in artistic expression was able to take off leading into what we know as contemporary art, where artistic expression is allowed to flourish. As artists, we should always be pushing artistic expression and never be content. Vincent would have been praised for his works if he was born in a more modern time but would artistic expression be where it’s at if he didn’t?

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  21. Vincent Van Gogh has a special place on my favorite artist list. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. No body but his brother Theo could understand Vincent. He didn’t do anything wrong he was just being himself. Most of artist aren’t recognize until they passed away then they become famous. Seems like this has become a pattern. The way people judge Vincent when he was alive makes me feel so sad.
    I recently watched a movie about Vincent at the theater. It’s called Loving Vincent. It is the world’s first fully oil painted feature film, brings the artwork of Vincent van Gogh to life. It was amazing to watch. I recommend to watch it.

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  22. I think we need more people like Vincent Van Gogh because if you have the same personality for each person, it gets repetitive and you’d eventually get tired of it. Having a person with the personality of Van Gogh in the mix can really be new and great for a group of people. Having someone that just brings something new and a new perspective will eventually help everyone, in my opinion. You get to see new takes on things, which if you’re all the same personality would be hard to achieve.

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  23. With Vincent van Goghs life, it was very intriguing and fascinating to me with his life doings. Vincent was a man that dealt with numerous accounts of his own personal demons and was unsure of his personal path in life. As an artist who was on an experimental type of work doing wasn’t that best choosing since it didn’t really help making his life any easier. As an artist of course he wanted other people to admire his works in art and also to have them understand that way he displayed his works of art, but the majority of the people during that moment in time wasn’t really ready to appeal to his work. As looking at it I feel that Vincent wasn’t really too sure about how his art was being perceived from other people and wasn’t well received by the reaction they give. Throughout many eras of artists, you can see that not just Vincent specifically but to any other artists you can see their journeys of struggles and when they overcome those struggles that’s when such as society accepts them assumingly since before like Vincent they would think so secondly during the process of breaking boundaries. Theo’s and Vincent’s relationship stood very strong and also harrowing. With Theo, he was sensed he was responsible for Vincent and also his strongest supporter and after a numerous amount of years stand by and supporting him viewing Vincent continue to struggle took an out a lot on Theo. Being the brother and supporter the artist and watching him do his passion over take him with his well-being and then lose him in a tragic way. It may be confusing to understand that Vincent had to deal with dark demon, but I feel that with the support from Theo he should’ve had a community from people like him that share the same qualities that would help and piece in his mind cultivating a well-balanced atmosphere creating an area of calm safeness, creativity, peace of mind and creativity like how artists today get that overall support they do.

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  24. I think Vincent’s tale is tragic especially given our poor understanding of mental health at the time. I absolutely think there is room for creatives like Van Gough in my life. I spent most of my twenties in cafés and dive bars where to local talent and culture thrived. Being a manic creative myself, I may not have the energy to be a direct patron of too many of the sort. However, I find that the old saying about birds of a feather ring true and that they often flock together in co-dependent creative explosions.

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  25. I think he was an exceptionaly brilliant artist who painted the way he saw the world. At the same time, I feel Van Gogh was a trouble person who needed more positive figures in his life. He almost seemed to be as a Hollywood actor/actress that became famous and couldn’t handle the fame. Then became to infatuated by what people thought and focused heavily on the criticism. Like many Hollywood actors this ruined him, his life, his personality. Like many artist we lack the ability to see the greatness in our own work and build the confidence we need to sell ourselves to the general public. Van Gogh definitely lacked this confidence in himself and his abilities. He was one of a kind and an artist that will live on forever, but while alive he cared to much about what others thought. He is not alone with feelings like this, as an artist that understand, I believe this is something we all struggle with at times.

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  26. Van Gogh’s life was nothing but struggle and it’s sad to think that his career as an artist never gained traction until after he had passed. I find it amazing that he stuck to painting rather than giving it up and making a living doing something else. The struggles he faced were unlike any other artist at the time and if it wasn’t for his continuation of creating art in his own unique style he might have went down in history as just another a painter. He had so much ambition to share his perspective with the world. With the problems that he had faced, art was not only his job but it was also his salvation. There will always be room for people like Van Gogh in all aspects of life but it’s important that we protect them from their demons and recognize them for their brilliance,

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