The Art of Vincent Van Gogh

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Vincent Van Gogh's art is extremely popular and important in today's Western society, as he fulfilled the stereotype of the insane, genius artist who struggled through his career. Understand society's love affair with Vincent Van Gogh with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

Part of the Video Series: Art History Genres
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Video Transcript

Hi, this is Dr. Betty Brown. And the question is 'What about this Van Gogh guy'? Vincent Van Gogh is certainly one of the most popular artists of the Western cultural tradition. Indeed his fame and popularity is spread beyond the West, and he is collected avidly by the wealthy throughout the planet. Why? Why? Why is this Dutch artist who had very little training; started out life as an art dealer, and failed at that; tried to be a missionary, and failed at that; and then could only support himself by living with his brother, and finally couldn't even do that. A failure in romance. A failure financially. A man who finally committed suicide. Why is he so important to who we are right now? Vincent Van Gogh was an artistic genius. He saw and felt so passionately and created images of divine inhuman experience, I'm thinking here of 'Starry Night'. Created images of the evil men succumb to, I'm thinking here of 'Night Cafe'. Created images of the beautiful, individual flower in the flower bed, I'm thinking here of his painting of 'The Irises'. Created images of the vitality of life, I'm thinking here of his 'Sunflowers'. These image are so beautifully and passionately wrought with never a false move that a viewer seeing the actual works, not the reproductions, but the actual works, is literally physically moved to have a compassionate response. Van Gogh touched certain cultural chords that still resonate. Van Gogh also lived out the stereotype of the crazed modern artist. So he satisfied some stereotypical expectations that our culture has imposed on artists. Most of the leading artists in the history of Western culture were not crazy, they didn't commit suicide, they weren't failures with their families or romantically. They were normal, hard-working, married people. But our culture has fallen in love with the stereotype of the crazy artist, and the archetypal figure is Vincent Van Gogh.

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