By John Tamiazzo, PhD
(September 21, 2018)
Dear Theo is a collection of letters that highlight the intimate correspondence between Vincent Van Gogh and his brother and closest friend Theo, an art dealer in Amsterdam. There are more than 600 letters from Vincent to Theo and 40 from Theo to Vincent. In these letters, Vincent Van Gogh shared amazing stories with his brother of his discoveries of the beauty and wonder of nature and the people that captured his attention, all of which became the subjects for over 900 paintings he made between 1880 and 1890. In 1878 he wrote, “Great art feeds the inner life, the heart, mind, and soul.”
Unlike Mozart, Van Gogh was not a child prodigy. As an adult, Van Gogh slowly and systematically first learned how to draw and then slowly learned how to mix paint to create color. Once he learned this, he gradually began to develop his skills as a painter.
When Van Gogh moved to Paris, his art began to take on a unique style. His daring approach to painting was to paint outdoors and to fervently apply the colorful paint with thick and bold brushstrokes. But, fame would not come to him for many decades following his early death at age 37 in 1890. The tragedy of Van Gogh is that he only sold one painting in his lifetime and this one sale came four months before his death. His bouts with depression and rage are well documented but make sense for what he perceived as total rejection by the general public and his Impressionistic colleagues of his artistry.
After Vincent’s death, Theo died just six months later and was buried next to his brother. Theo’s wife Johanna inherited all of Vincent’s paintings and dedicated her life to arranging public showings all over the world, thus bringing his remarkable art to the attention of millions. 100 years after his death, seven of Van Gogh’s paintings sold at auction for a total of 700 million dollars. Today those same paintings are worth over one billion dollars.
People’s perceptions of Van Gogh are that he was a mentally unstable artist, but if you look beyond this and read more about his life, particularly his autobiographically written, Dear Theo, you will discover that he was a passionate and compassionate artist, a gifted writer, a keen observer, and a profound thinker. At age 25 he wrote, “The best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, whatever you like, but love with a lofty and intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence, and always try to go deeper and learn more.”
Passionate artists like Vincent Van Gogh have a lot to teach us as we take stock of the things that enliven and deeply satisfy us. Perhaps music, dancing, film, cooking, hiking or volunteering for an important cause continues to challenge and gratify you. As you think more about this, you might discover your fervor for writing, art, gardening, or interior design. Wherever you find your passion, the important thing, like Van Gogh said, “Always go deeper and continue to learn more.”
Vincent Van Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.
John Tamiazzo, PhD is the former Executive Director of the Sedona Community Center. He is the author of Love & be Loved: 8 Steps to Creating Intimacy and Finding the Love You Want; Returning to the Land of Oz: Finding Hope, Love, and Courage on Your Yellow Brick Road. His Counseling Services and Workshops integrate Solution Focused Counseling, Transpersonal Psychology, Neuroscience, Imagery and Self-Hypnosis Processes, and Dreamwork. Visit his website www.johntamiazzo.com to learn more about his counseling work, consulting, public speaking, endorsements, and his upcoming workshops and classes at OLLI Sedona beginning this fall.