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Guest Post: Why Love Was Such a Powerful Motivator for Vincent van Gogh’s Creativity


Guest Post by Giuseppe Cafiero


In a letter to his younger brother Theo, Vincent once wrote “What is done in love is well done”. It is through this, and other correspondences, that we can understand how important the concept of love was to van Gogh’s art.

In his personal life, van Gogh was unlucky in love. Though he pursued a number of relationships during his short life, he never married nor had children. The objections of his family brought an unhappy end to his involvement with one of his muses, former prostitute and model Sien Hoornik, while a later relationship with a neighbour, Margot Begemann, led to her attempting suicide because her family were opposed to the match.  

While this pain only contributed to the misery that Vincent already felt so keenly, it also deeply informed his approach to painting. In another letter to Theo, he states that “In order to work and to become an artist one needs love”, and it was that expansion of consciousness elicited by love that can be clearly seen in his expressionistic style. The intensity and immediacy of his passions were directed instead to the scene before him, with van Gogh embracing his impressions of the natural world without fear or restraint. In sharing his thoughts on a new love affair to his beloved Theo, van Gogh could as easily be describing his unique approach to art: “One loves because one loves. Then we keep our heads clear, and do not cloud our minds, nor do we hide our feelings, nor smother the fire and light, but simply say: Thank God, I love.” 

So for van Gogh, heartache was transfigured on to the canvas, representing a revolutionary act that allowed him to be a participant in something he viewed as otherwise precluded to him. It also served as a rebellion against the restrictive religious atmosphere that his father, Theodorus, had tried to inculcate when Vincent was still a young man.  

Here was an artist who was led by the heart; one driven to try and capture the truth with the same sincerity and striving as would be expected towards a lover. This capacity for love fuelled his creativity and is what still attracts us to his bold and bright paintings today.

Vincent Van Gogh: the Ambiguity of Insanity by Giuseppe Cafiero is out now as an audiobook on Amazon, Audible.com and iTunes.

About the Book

Title: Vincent Van Gogh: The Ambiguity of Insanity

Author: Giuseppe Cafiero

An abrasive itinerary of the presence of women, the landscape and obsession. Such are the internal paradigms that went through the compelling life of the Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.

Not flesh and blood women, but the woman as a guide: Mrs. Jones, the woman as a mother; Kee Vos; Christine Hoornik of Siena; Margot Begemann. The Portrait-women such as Augustine Roulin and Madame Ginoux. And then the backgrounds, endless, unforgettable in this genius’s works: Isleworth, Amsterdam, le Borinage, Arles, St. Remy, Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent van Gogh spent his life trying to capture the colors, the atmosphere, the light.

The pain of finitude and his obsession with achieving redemption through art, with intimate and stormy religiosity, with brotherly love, with the French noon sun and, in short, with death. A hard-working and unwavering life where art interacted, in a painful gesture, with the iron will of a hand that never lost its way.

The life of a beloved and devoted man, silenced by the anguish and despair of creation, who could only find peacefulness when he found his own death.

Vincent Van Gogh: the Ambiguity of Insanity is a fictionalized biography and gripping novel of the life of the Nineteenth-Century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The author, Giuseppe Cafiero, draws a psychological portrait of the Post-Impressionist painter through the women that marked his life and the cities in which he lived.


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