Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Bad Vincent

Last time I was in Amsterdam (about 25 years ago) I went to the wax museum and stood for ages in front of the image of Vincent Van Gogh. He was standing in his cute little bedroom in Arles, looking sorry for himself, while Don McLean's "starry, starry night" played on a loop.

I could have cried.

But Vincent- the real Vincent- was the kind of man you'd have hated to have as a neighbour. Waldemar Januszczak has just completed a series on Channel 4 dedicated to this proposition. He has documented the violence, the drunkenness, the whoring, the syphilis, the paranoia, the attention-seeking, the bad behaviour. Vincent kept being run out of town- and for good reason. In Arles the citizens got up a petition and presented it to the mayor protesting that he was mad and drunk and a molester of women and needed to be locked away.

Just before he cut off his earlobe Vincent confronted Gauguin in the street and threatened him with an open razor. Wake up people, this was not a nice man!

Very little in the legend is true. He wasn't even as unsuccessful as we like to think. At the time of his death he had just sold his first picture and was being hailed by the Parisian critics as the saviour of modern art. Seeing that he'd only been working as an artist for 9 years, that's pretty good going.

But somehow, we've turned him into an icon of suffering innocence. He's the artist as Jesus Christ. A man of sorrows and rejected by men.

But, oh Vincent, I'd have understood you. I'd have sat by your bedside and held your hand and told you how beautiful you were. Me and Don McLean.
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