Self-esteem isn’t always easy to explain, identify or encourage. Vincent Van Gogh’s life is not usually used as an example of a man with high self-esteem. But, one of his quotes just sticks with me.
If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced
– Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
During a trip to Paris, I decided it was time to visit a museum. The Musee D’Orsay exhibits works of the modern era, formerly a train station; the main area is sunny and airy, a unique presentation for sculptures and paintings. Rodin’s sculptural interpretation of Dante’s inferno (Gates of Hell) will stun you, if you have a pulse.
But eventually I began to breeze through the museum, until I came to the Van Gogh’s. I sat in front of the first painting (Starry Night) for 10 minutes, as 200 people filed by the painting. The colors and the brush strokes combined to create something I had never felt or seen before.
My interest in Vincent Van Gogh was stirred, and I read about his life. Van Gogh suffered from personal demons from at least the age of 21 to the time of his suicide at the age of 37. Reading the biographies I am struck by the depths of Van Gogh’s mental illness. Yet, in 10 years – 1880-1890, he learned to paint, and was prolific. He painted more than 900 works, in the last two months of his life he painted 80 works, more than one a day.
In this mist of his destructive life, Van Gogh created masterpieces. Van Gogh referred to his paintings as his progeny, since he had no children. I think that Van Gogh’s life teaches that though some of us may not find happiness we can still be a positive force.
So did Vincent Van Gogh have high self-esteem?
Vincent Van Gogh was clearly motivated and inspired. His mental illness resulted in an unhappy life, but in referring to his paintings as progeny I believe he had a strong regard for his ability, I call it self-esteem.