They think I’m a madman, because I wanted to be a true Christian

Yesterday, March 30, was the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, born in Zundert, Holland (1853). As The Writer’s Almanac reports it, as a young man, he was deeply religious and went off to do missionary work in a coal-mining region in Belgium. One day he decided to give away all of his worldly goods and live like a peasant. But his religious superiors thought he was having a nervous breakdown. They kicked him out of the mission and he had to go home. Van Gough wrote in a letter to a friend, “They think I’m a madman, because I wanted to be a true Christian.”

It was then that he started to draw and paint. He taught himself with art books and by studying the masters. He was especially interested in painting the daily life of peasants. He finally decided to move to the village of Arles in the south of France, because he said, “I want to look at nature under a brighter sky.” It was in Arles that he began to develop the style he became known for, in which the images of flowers and trees and landscapes were exaggerated by extremely rough brush strokes and vivid colors.

Vincent Van Gogh said, “I have a terrible need of — shall I say the word — religion. Then I go out and paint the stars.”

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