Loving Vincent
What’s It All About

If I could make a deal with the devil, which would allow me to teach art history for the rest of my life, I don’t know what I would have to offer the devil. Nevertheless, fifty-years ago, I got a chance of a lifetime. I had taken a required 10-hour class, in my junior year at Muskingum College, called The Arts. Why I chose to take it in my junior year, I have no idea. It was a difficult class, and many waited until their senior year to take the class. Fortunately, I didn’t wait.

I didn’t ace either semester as a junior. Nonetheless, Louie Palmer, the professor of the class, called me to his office at the end of my junior year. He offered me the opportunity of becoming his teaching assistant the following year. I jumped at it. In my senior year, I taught several subsections each week, wrote, and graded the midterm and final for both semesters. Essentially, I took The Arts again…and loved it. I loved the various art forms, and I really loved teaching. However, that’s the first backstory.

The other backstory is that I have a colleague that I worked with four decades ago who I hadn’t seen or heard from since that time years ago. Out of the blue, I got a birthday card from her, which began the reconnecting of two old friends. Each Saturday, we talk over the phone. Last week, I wrote about one of our recent phone calls. She mentioned, in passing, about whether I had seen the movie, Loving Vincent, which I hadn’t. The movie was the story of the post-impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t.

This weekend during our weekly chat, the first thing that I asked her was whether she had seen At Eternity’s Gate. My friend said that she hadn’t. Now, we were even; we are both very competitive. However, I hadn’t seen it either but discovered it while ordering Loving Vincent on the Internet.

For nearly an hour, I confessed that I knew a great deal about van Gogh, which made the story quite plausible. However, I wasn’t certain about many of the details. I was lost in the midst of truth and possible alteration to benefit the storyline. At any rate, the movie’s plot begins with Postman Joseph Roulin wanting his son, Amand, to deliver to Theo van Gogh a letter, which was the last letter before Vincent allegedly kills himself. Unfortunately, Amand finds out that Theo had died six months prior. Amand then spent the rest of the movie meeting and talking to many of van Gogh’s friends or people that knew him.

The movie dealt also with the relationship between Paul Gauguin and Vincent. There is a debate between art scholars whether or not it was a sexual relationship. Loving Vincent wrestles with that relationship also. Whatever their feelings were, it didn’t last long before Gauguin left. In fact, Gauguin went to Tahiti for several years only to return to France hoping for artistic success. However, that wasn’t in the cards, and he returned to Tahiti in 1895 and died in 1903.

Loving Vincent ends with Johanna, the wife of Theo, sending her letter to Armand along with a letter from Vincent’s letters to her, which is signed, “Your loving Vincent.”

While I have never painted nor gone through the darkness that Vincent did, he and I share a great deal of things in common. We both love and seem to need water around us. In a matter of eight years, he painted around 800 paintings. However, he painted many works having to do with rivers, lakes, or oceans. I too need to be around water. I live on a lake and have spent a lot of time on rivers, lakes, or oceans.

Vincent said, “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me want to dream.” Stars helped him dream and dreaming helped him paint. He added, “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.” There are two of his paintings of stars. The first one was the town of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, which he painted from his hospital room in June of 1889.

The Starry Night

The other painting is called Starry Night Over the Rhone, which he painted a year prior in 1888.

Starry Night Over the Rhone

Bobby Kennedy put words to my dreaming, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” We both gained through dreaming, which helps us to realize our dreams.

Finally, another similarity between Vincent and me is writing. There are 903 letters in the collection of letters. There are 820 letters that he wrote to others, most of which were written to Theo. This photo is one to Theo about one of this paintings including a sketch of it, which he often did.

One of his many letters to Theo

While I don’t often write letters, I do write three essays per week for years along with lecture notes, etc.

Vincent faced life and lived boldly in spite of a long list of issues whether medical or psychological. He saw a purpose to life and carried on. We could all learn an important lesson of life from Vincent.

This video is about how the movie was made.

This is another version of The Starry Night.