A Hundred Years
I recently had a conversation with a neighbor of mine. She is a stay-at-home mother with teenage children. Often times the two of us have shared stories, both funny and sad. On this particular occasion I recommended that she should keep a journal and write down these stories for future family generations to read and remember.
Personally I have done this for years and consider these volumes to be my most cherished possessions-may art being the close second.
Basically she blew off the suggestion and followed it with, “In a hundred years, who will care?”
She was serious.
I feel certain that this is how she feels and in a sense I guess I can see her point of view and agree. Who would care? It was obvious she didn’t. Why would anyone else?
I hate to keep picking on the life and story of Vincent Van Gogh for many of my examples, but in this case I believe it drives home my point.
First let me ask, how many of you have heard of Vincent Van Gogh or have seen pictures of his art? I dare say that pretty much anyone who loves art, or has studied art, knows this name. For this you should thank Johanna Van Gogh.
Unless you have studied art history, Van Gogh in particular, you may find some points of his life interesting and surprising.
Without going into great detail let me cover a couple of the basics. One, as far as the art community as a whole was concerned, Vincent was a failure and died at a relatively young age in July 1890. If my math is correct, that is a number of years past one hundred.
Unable to support himself financially with his art, Vincent was supported by his brother, Theo, for most of his “artist’s life”. But, about six months after Vincent’s death Theo died too, leaving all of Vincent’s art and personal correspondence with his brother to Theo’s wife, Johanna.
In the letters written by Vincent he poured out his soul. He wrote of his daily life, what he saw, and described the art he was creating and what it meant to him. He would even go so far as to sketch out in some of the letters what he wanted to paint. Because of these letters there is more known about Vincent, the artist, the man, than any other artist in art history (in my opinion).
After the death of Vincent and Theo, Johanna spent decades of her life promoting Vincent’s art and in 1914 she had a three-volume collection of Vincent’s letters published. I feel quite certain that neither Vincent nor Theo had any idea the impact these written letters would have in relationship to the recognition of Vincent’s art, and in a sense, his immortality in the world of art and art history.
As an artist, one aspect I have the most trouble with is the fact that no one else in Vincent’s family wanted his art, or his letters. They were content with Johanna having them all.
Now what if, and again I say, what if, Johanna had taken that same mindset as my neighbor – “In a hundred years, who will care?”, and did nothing?
Most likely none of Vincent’s letters would have survived and probably would have gone into the trash. NOTHING of Vincent would be known. This too could have been the fate of his paintings, and of the few that had survived there would be no story behind them.
Who knows what impact our own written stories may have on others in the years ahead? I encourage you, write them down. Maybe a hundred years from now millions will care.
Andrew - journalmtw