At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent Van Gogh by Kathleen Powers Erickson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Vincent van Gogh was a complicated, yet simple individual of deep faith and great ability whose life was interrupted by uncontrollable mental instability as a result of epilepsy.
At Eternity's Gate digs deep into his religious upbringing and his inner-spirituality - made evident through his letters to his brother Theo and through his paintings. in his young life, van Gogh wanted to follow in his father and uncle's footsteps. both were pastors. but Vincent had a different outlook on ministry and service and was ultimately rejected by both the local and institutional church. this defeat lead him down a path of self discovery that never sadly fully came to fruition.
van Gogh did, however, before heading down an artistic path, spend some time serving the poor and needy, as he strived to follow and imitate Christ. as a matter of fact, The Imitation of Christ and Pilgrim's Progress were his two favorite books.
van Gogh witnessed to and served coal miners of the Belgian Borinage - particularly after a mining disaster. He also gave away his possessions and clothes to those whom he felt needed it more. Despite being rejected by the church and despite feelings that the pastors and people within the church were hypocrites, van Gogh lived his faith through acts of service similar to St. Francis of Assisi.
the splendor of his capability as a painter may not have been realized until the latter years of his life and beyond. As mental instability crept in, he spent time in and out of asylums. it was during this time, particularly the last 5 years of his life (he took his own life in a wheat field at the age of 37) when his artistic talents took shape.
throughout his paintings and drawings, you can see examples of his spiritual devotion to Christ. you can also see his disdain and brokenness that came about after his dismissal from the church.
this is noted in his famous painting Starry Night, where the buildings and homes are well lit - yet the church and spire in the center are dark and ominous. this is also prevalent in my favorite van Gogh painting The church at Auvers.
Kathleen Powers Erickson does a fabulous job retracing a more accurate history of Vincent van Gogh including his most intriguing story. there are so many layers to van Gogh and his art. i'd highly recommend this book. it really fascinated me. Sadly, only one of van Gogh's paintings ever sold before his untimely death. had it not been for his brother's wife - who collected his works and brought them to the public's attention, the world may never have noticed the majesty found within van Gogh's work.
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