In Vincent van Gogh’s perspective on Christ there is something out of ordinary and different from tons of thoughts and views on Christ that exist in philosophy, literature, and theology. Van Gogh was not a regular person. That’s why his point of view on Christ was unlike others. Perhaps he saw some similarities between his life and the life of Christ. For example, a lot of people viewed Jesus Christ as a crazy person during his life; Van Gogh as well experienced the same attitude from others. Jesus was often not understood by people, even those who was close to him, Van Gogh faced similar attitude during his lifetime. Christ built relationships with marginal people, and we can see a comparable behavior in Van Gogh.
We also could see contradictory parallels in the death of Christ and death of Van Gogh. Christ gave his life as a sacrifice; van Gogh took his life from himself. Undeniably, there is big difference between self-sacrifice and suicide. (I believe that life that is given to anyone is sacred. It doesn’t matter under what condition it should be continued. Nobody has the right to stop it, but I don’t see a reason to judge what Van Gough did. I don’t have the right and I don’t want to “send” him to the hell.) People started to honor and consider Christ to be a Savior after his death and resurrection. Van Gogh became popular and got acknowledgment as an artist after his death as well. A lot of people still don’t recognize and don’t understand what Christ has done. Many people have the same attitude towards Van Gogh artworks.
Van Gogh, as an artist, viewed Christ as the greatest Artist. He was right because Christ, as an unprecedented Artist, created and still creates “everything new” and everlasting. Look what he said about it:
“Christ alone, of all the philosophers, magicians, etc., has affirmed eternal life as the most important certainty, the infinity of time, the futility of death, the necessity and purpose of serenity and devotion. He lived serenely, as an artist greater than all other artists, scorning marble and clay and paint, working in the living flesh. In other words, this peerless artist, scarcely conceivable with the blunt instrument of our modern, nervous and obtuse brains, made neither statues nor paintings nor books. He maintained in no uncertain terms that he made…living men, immortals. That’s serious, you know, especially because it’s the truth".
From the letter to Emile Bernard. Arles, June 1888
Moscow, April, 2012
When I was in Malaga in the Museum of Pablo Picasso, one of his expressions attracted my attention. What he said was that: “Academic training in beauty is a sham. We have been deceived, but so well deceived that we can scarcely get back even a shadow of the truth. The beauties of the Parthenon, Venuses, Nymphs, Narcissuses are so many lies. Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don't start measuring her limbs. We love with our desires—although everything has been done to try and apply a canon even to love...It's not what the artist does that counts, but what he is.” From an interview with André Flores, 1945
Picasso severely criticized the academic school of art. On one hand academic painting is a type of art which expresses the perfect form of objects. Everything is measured according to ideal standards. It supposes to tell us about actual beauty. On the other hand it is actually a limited understanding of beauty. In academic art the characters are shown gracefully. There is no place for any defect or ugliness. Everything should look noble and elegant, even if the story is about murder or betrayal. Such an artistic view of the world is separated from reality because it is hard to find similar ideal forms and objects in our crooked and twisted world. Whenever we contemplate the “ideal of beauty”, in whatever form, we reject the original charm and beauty of this world. Very often curves and defects are more beautiful than standards of what is ideal, because beauty is not something that is proposed to us from outside. It is something that comes from our heart. Only when we love the object or the form does it become truly perfect and ideal for us.
Academic painting was replaced in our time by catwalks, glossy magazines, television, which all try to tell us what real beauty is. The format has changed but the essence remained the same. We are taught how and what we need to admire. Every day we are sneakily being forced to enjoy a fantasy that has nothing to do with beauty. How many young girls and boys have been trapped in those deceiving ideas? They are crucifying and damaging their minds and bodies trying to fit to these canons of “beauty”.
Picasso correctly said that love couldn’t be placed in a certain frame and painted according to academic proportions. Similar to that, a person can not experience the beauty if he/she will look at beauty through lines that were dictated to him from someone. We have forgotten who we are, and how to experience the world from our heart. We stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that we were trapped in someone else’s ideas of forms and ways of living. We do not want to look at reality and learn how to enjoy it. We get used to living according to the model that was proposed to us, though somewhere deep down inside we know that who we are is much more important than how we look.
Moscow, April, 2012
By Veniamin Slobodenko who tries to be an artist.