When Vincent Van Gogh died in 1890 at the age of only 37 he had sold only a handful of his paintings, along with a couple of drawings.
Why is it then that the iconic painter – who we all know today as one of the world’s most successful – never achieved fortune let alone fame, in the course of his lifetime?
This is a question that sits front and centre in the latest film on the life and works of the charismatic Dutch post-Impressionist, appropriately entitled: ‘Vincent Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing, Exhibition On Screen’.
David Bickerstaff’s entertaining documentary depicts Van Gogh in a solemn but brutally honest light.
The film chronicles his life, from his early days in Zundert in the south of Holland, to his move to England to further his first career as a lay evangelist.
When at age 27, this venture falters, Van Gogh turns to his first love, painting, and like everything he does in life, plunges into it with a passion that is both unbridled and fanatical.
He moves back to Holland and then on to Paris – in a fervent attempt to foster his artistic talent.
The film is extremely detailed and draws on interviews with staff from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, as well as accessing the many letters written by Van Gogh throughout his life to his brother Theo.
Although they lived in different parts of the country for much of their lives, Van Gogh’s relationship with his brother is extremely close.
Vincent shares some of his most intimate feelings in his letters, and it is therefore extremely fortunate that such personal information still remains accessible to the general public today.
There are also interviews with Van Gogh’s grandson, but some of the most memorable scenes feature the actor Jamie de Courcey as Vincent himself.
He looks so much like Van Gogh that I almost had to do a ‘double-take’ to tell the difference between them.
The actor’s mannerisms – whether it be smoking his pipe or solemnly contemplating his next move as he paints – are also spot on.
The film is largely the story of Van Gogh’s efforts throughout his short life to achieve a unique style.
He wanted to achieve something different, despite being heavily influenced by other painters of the day such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Charles Blanc and Francois Millet.
His poor metal health and its tragic consequences are well documented: including cutting off his own ear after a heated argument with fellow painter Gauguin.
Often referred to as an ‘artist of the people’ or a ‘peasant artist’, Van Gogh left a massive legacy of work that will likely never be emulated by any artist anywhere.
The film is worth seeing just for that – a glorious kaleidoscope of colour and vision that captures both the man and his work brilliantly.
‘Vincent Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing, Exhibition On Screen’ is screening Saturday and Sunday 9th and 10th February at 1pm – and Wednesday 13th February at 11am at the Windsor Cinema, Nedlands.
By Mike Peeters