V: Vincent Van Gogh and the Artist’s “Failure”

Van Gogh Starry Night

“Once again I allowed myself to be led astray into reaching for stars that are too big—another failure—and I have had my fill of that.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Though he was painting from the insane asylum he had checked himself into and was attempting to paint a night-time view while working during the day, Van Gogh produced an absolute masterpiece when he created The Starry Night.  Offering an abstract, whimsical version of the view from his bedroom window, this painting is known as one of Van Gogh’s finest works, and has been part of the permanent collection in New York’s Museum of Modern Art since 1941.

When examining his own work, however, Van Gogh criticized himself for the giant swirls which he had tried to craft into stars, and called the work “a failure.”  If only he could have known what world-wide acclaim this painting would receive one day!

As artists, we often see the worst in our own work and criticize ourselves much too heavily.  Sharing our work with others is an emotional risk, and it’s often tempting to hide our ideas away so that no one will laugh at them.  But when we take that leap of faith and share the fruit of our creative labors, it may very well be that others will find it to be even more beautiful than we had hoped.

Have you fallen into the trap of perfectionism in your artistic endeavors or in your Christian life?  Remember that we can never be perfect, and will drive ourselves insane trying to do so (just ask Van Gogh!).  Instead, may we accept our shortcomings and hand our failures over to a Perfect God, who is able to create a beautiful masterpiece out of our weakest moments (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Things may not turn out the way we envisioned, but just like The Starry Night, they might just turn out better.

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Photo Credit:  The Starry Night – Vincent Van Gogh – Public Domain

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The Classics.jpg

This post was submitted as part of the A to Z Challenge, where participants agree to write an article that corresponds to each letter of the alphabet, posting every day of the month of April (except Sundays).

Here on The Artistic Christian,  my theme for the month is The Classics.  Each day I’ll examine a book, film, or work of art that has become a beloved classic and discuss what has made it such a success, and what eternal themes it contains that Christian artists can use as modern illustrations.

For daily reflections from my personal travels around the world, check out my companion blog, Everyday Musings, where my theme for April is Reflections From Around the World.

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15 thoughts on “V: Vincent Van Gogh and the Artist’s “Failure”

  1. I love this. My husband is a fine artist and will sometimes re-work something that I think is already a masterpiece. It’s often hard for us to let something go and let God finish what we’ve begun. Thank you for your inspiring words.

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  2. Van Gogh has (for as long as I can remember – certainly over 40 years) been my favourite painter. We have, I feel, an affinity – not for the angst or the sanity or the other sadder aspects of his short life – but for the fact that Vincent loved the sun as much as I; he poured it into his paintings and I like to think I do likewise with my poetry. I wrote my dissertation on his life at Art College and, like Anabel above, have had the privilege of visiting not only Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum but also some of the locations in his paintings – several in Auvers-sur-Oise in France. Thanks for posting.

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  3. We have a small magnet of Starry Night hanging on our fridge. Jon loves this painting and I think I bought him the magnet while we were dating. Regardless, whenever we look at this masterpiece, we always think about how this great work of art reminds us of God’s masterpiece in creation. His work is perfect. I may not find perfection here on earth, but God’s perfection is all around and I don’t have to look any farther than a starry night sky to know and experience God’s great goodness.

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