A Letter to van Gogh

By Krishna Advani

Background Image: Google Images

Dear Vincent van Gogh,

I am not going to insult your pain by pretending to know what it is that you went through. All that torment and defeat must have caused more horrors for you than your pieces of art will ever reflect. But whatever empathy I do have in me- it is all yours.

I am not going to attempt to assuage your anguish- I know it is far beyond our ability to fathom it. But I will tell you this: for every brush stroke you made, for every masterpiece they never valued; you have created artists who aspire to be like you, and you have people like me who wish they had any talent with a paint and canvas. You have people like me who wish they could turn back time and help you realize that each one of those stars you have painted in the sky of your painting collectively cannot shine brighter than you did on Earth. 

You chose love. You chose it even when it didn’t choose you. That itself makes you an inspiration for everyone else. I am so sorry that you were never understood. You didn’t need to fit into any constellation they designed because you were (and are) one entirely of your own. You continued to dream in color amidst a black and white world and that makes you a brave, brave man. I know it because I can see how you bleed into your paintings. One cannot even hope to find such sunflowers anywhere but in your imagination.

I only wish you could see how much you mean to the world today. I wish I had a way to drag you by the hand from your room in Auvers-sur-Oise to the Louvre so you can see the enchanting spell of your hands cast on all the people who consider you the ‘Father of Modern Art’. You never were and never will be the Nobody you thought yourself to be, Vincent. You were an evangelic being who displayed his poetry in ways they couldn’t understand. 

This same poetry will one day be revered, studied and idolized by the best of the best in your field. As for me? I’m not a painter. I’m not the kind of artist with a palette. But the reason I can tell you all of this and love your work is because your art isn’t just beautiful; it makes a person feel something- just like art should. 

I can’t help but cry every time I think of how you never felt loved. All you saw in yourself were inadequacies they convinced you that you were full of. And for every drop that falls, I cannot help but wonder if the prostitute knew you loved her. If your brother knew you had no choice. To imagine how lonely you must be to literally give a piece of yourself to prove to someone you love them. You were all heart with a need to be loved and it hurts me that you never got that. I’d hate to think that you considered yourself unlovable. You weren’t. You were an incredible soul.

There is this perception that as you grow older, it is about time you ‘toughen up’. You stop letting yourself get affected by the smaller things in life and start making a stronger version of yourself instead. I was well on my way to believing that is true when I saw your story. That changed me, and now I stand convinced that this empathy is what makes me different. For had you stumbled upon someone with a shred of empathy, you would not have been as broken as you became. On some days I convince myself that niceness in the world is only returned with vicious intention- but even on those days, there is a little girl in me who cries when she thinks of the time you ate yellow paint, thinking it would make you feel happy on the inside. That keeps me from doing the one thing worse than hating- becoming apathetic. 

I want to thank you, Vincent. And I want you to now that you were the last thing from a failure. You succeeded in making the world see, through your work, all that you have in your heart. Just like you wanted to. You have touched innumerable people with your art, and succeeded in making us say “he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.” You did all of it and more. And above all, you showed us that the best way to get to a star is flying without air. I hope your journey after the one on Earth was filled with everything we failed to give you. I hope the sunflowers in heaven are the ones you painted and that the sun itself borrows its shine from you. You deserve that happiness.

With love, 

A Dreamer Renewed

P.S: The sadness won’t last forever. I promise.