You ever seen the Van Gogh sunflower? That beautiful piece of art. So gorgeous, so deep, so amazing.
It’s kind of bizarre that some piece of paper with some colors on it can be such a magnet for our brains. But there’s something about that sunflower. Something about that night scene. Something about that self-portrait. Something deep, something we feel this incredible need to connect to.
And so, some of us, when we hear that there is a Van Gogh exhibit at our nearby museum, we go. Bring the family, because we know the kids will appreciate it. Will look at those paintings, and even if they are bored, even if they don’t know what the heck is so special about a sunflower on paper, well, there will have to be some benefit.
We all think Van Gogh had some magic power, something that made him some special sort of genius, someone who could look at the world and see something we didn’t. And so we run to museums to check out his stuff. We go online and buy prints of his works and put them up in our houses. Some people pay tens of millions of dollars for his work.
Van Gogh, though, he made two hundred and ten dollars his whole life from his paintings. He spent his entire life just painting, scrounging. He had no idea about this genius. He didn’t know his work would one day sell for so much.
So how could he have possibly spent so much time working, so much time creating those beautiful works of art?
Here’s the thing. Read the letters by Van Gogh. Van Gogh, he just wanted to share the beauty of the world. As he said in one letter, “the figure of a laborer- some furrows in a plowed field, a bit of sand, sea and sky – are serious objects, so difficult but at the same time so beautiful, that it is indeed worth while to devote one’s life to the task of expressing the poetry hidden in them.”
Van Gogh, he may have been happy if you looked at his work, paid a lot for it. But what he really wanted, and this was why we all think this man was a genius, what he really wanted was for us to look at the world the way he did.
When Van Gogh looked at the world, he saw beauty. He saw something so incredible, so real, so deep, that he had to share it. He felt a deep ache. A deep desire. A deep need to satisfy this feeling inside of him that told him, “Other people need to see this! It’s just so beautiful, so achingly gorgeous. They need to see it.”
A true artist, he may be happy if his work sells for millions of dollars, but that is not his goal. No, a true artist, an artist like Van Gogh or like Mozart or like any artist that has truly spoken to you, he knows that the true goal of creating, in the end, is not the museums. Or the dollar signs. Or fame. It’s not even his painting.
No, it’s what the painting is trying to say that matters. It’s saying, “Look. Look. Look. Your world could be like this, if you only looked.” Van Gogh, he saw the world a certain way, and with his paintings, he wasn’t begging for money, for fame, for love. He was begging for us to see what he saw. To see that G-d has created a world of utter perfection. A world that, if we only took a moment to look, we would realize it had already been painted for us by the most talented Artist ever.