November 20th, 2021

Everyone can confidently say they know a little bit about Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, even if it’s just recognizing the blue swirls and twirls of Starry Night. What might be less known is the fateful trials and tribulations this Post-Impressionistic painter endured while becoming one of the most famous and influential figures in western art history. Vincent created over two thousand artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life.

Everyone can confidently say they know a little bit about Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, even if it’s just recognizing the blue swirls and twirls of Starry Night.

His portfolio boasts landscapes, still life portraits, and his famous self portraits, characterized by bold colors applied with dramatic and expressive brushwork, contributing to the foundations of modern art. The heart break over an artist that was ahead of his time, Vincent was never commercially successful during his lifetime, struggling with severe depression, poverty, and speculated borderline personality disorder, he eventually took his own life at age thirty-seven. 

In the film “At Eternity’s Gate (2018),” director Julian Schnabel imagined a different Vincent. Schnabel focuses on Vincent’s final years in Arles, France, painting what we now recognize as his greatest masterpieces, capturing the natural world and seemingly simple objects and countryside that surround him. The film skims over Van Gogh’s earlier struggles, yet the professional and personal disappointments are expressed in lead actor William Dafoe’s feverish eyes as he depicts the famed artist on the silver screen. 

“In life and in painting too, I can easily do without the dear Lord, but I can’t, suffering as I do, do without something greater than myself, which is my life, the power to create.”

In an attempt to get inside the artists head, Schnabel leads us on a visually appealing journey to understand how Vincent’s thoughts and emotions manifested themselves onto the canvas. Exploring the Provencal countryside, we follow Vincent as he communes with his surroundings, transmitting his desire to “paint what I feel and feel what I paint.” 

Drawing on historical record when it suits him, Schnabel paints a different ending for Vincent, straying from the narrative that this mad genius took his life,  his death is portrayed as a tragic accident amongst school boys. 

“A grain of madness is the best of art.”

 

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”

 

“…I always think that what we need is sunshine and fine weather and blue air as the most dependable remedy.”

 

“…find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.”

 

 

“I don’t know if you’ll understand that one can speak poetry just by arranging colors well, just as one can say comforting things in music.”

 

“…the sight of the stars always make me dream.”