ADVERTISING
 
Sunday, July 15   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Migration
Do Christians in your country have a Bible-based understanding of how migrants should be treated?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Jeff Fountain
 

The paradox of Vincent van Gogh

His own writings to Theo and his paintings of his latter phase bear witness to his preoccupation to the end with the person of Christ.

WINDOW ON EUROPE AUTHOR Jeff Fountain 19 OCTOBER 2017 12:20 h GMT+1

Across the road from the YWAM centre De Poort on the Amsterdam harbourfront, and next door to the shipping museum, is the long red-brick former admiralty building.



A large bronze plaque can be seen on the building from the windows of De Poort, where we held the Masterclass in European Studies earlier this month.



Closer inspection shows it to commemorate, not the brave career of some heroic naval officer, but the sojourn in that building of a young, zealous theology student named Vincent van Gogh.



Lodging there from May 1877 to July 1878, with his uncle, Rear Admiral Johannes van Gogh, Vincent tried unsuccessfully to prepare for theological study, tutored by another uncle, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.



Sundays for Vincent involved a self-imposed routine of fanatical church attendance: an early morning service in the Oosterkerk nearby, followed by another in the Oudezijds Kapel (to this day an evangelical ministry in the red light district).



Walking further to the next sermon in the Westerkerk, he concluded his circuit in the Norderkerk. The bronze plaque cites his own words to his brother Theo about the ‘many church porches and floors’ he had seen in the city.



Failure at his studies led to departure to a poor mining district in Belgium as a lay preacher. With the same fanaticism, he involved himself in the lives of the poor, gave away all his belongings and even went down into the mines. But his efforts were rejected by both the locals and the mission for whom he was working.



 



Rejection

His sketches of the bleak, poverty-stricken Borinage however prompted Theo to advise him to become an artist. But this new search for his calling was also fraught with disappointment, rejection and failure. He wrote to Theo that he would ‘never amount to anything important’.



Further failure (including an ill-fated attempt to help a prostitute and her child) forced him to move back in with his parents in Nuenen, near Eindhoven, in the south of the Netherlands. There he produced over 500 works in earthy colours or pencil, mostly of peasant scenes.



Then France beckoned, firstly to Paris where he discovered colour and developed his typical, short brush stroke style, and later to Arles in the south where he had hoped to set up a brotherhood of artists.



There his tempestuous relationship with Paul Gauguin led to a year in an asylum and the production of another 150 works. The final year of his life, 1889-90, Vincent moved to Auvers-sur-Oise to be closer to his brother. His frantic artistic activity continued, yielding a painting a day.



One day in July 1890, he staggered back from a cornfield with a fatal gunwound. He died two days later.



Until recently, it was assumed he had shot himself. But questions about the angle of the shot and other circumstances have now led to theories that local youths were responsible.



The tragically-short life of Vincent van Gogh was one of paradox upon paradox. During his prolific decade of artistic production before he died, he struggled to sell his paintings. Yet today his works sell for hundreds of millions of euros.



 



Evidence

His association with Amsterdam was never as a painter. Yet today one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions is the Van Gogh Museum, where fans line up every day outside, eager to see the collection of over 200 of his originals.



Critics traditionally have assumed van Gogh’s disappointments with the church led him to break with institutional Christianity and to seek the divine in nature. Yet his own writings to Theo and his paintings of his latter phase bear witness to his preoccupation to the end with the person of Christ: “… a greater artist than all other artists, despising marble and clay as well as colour, working in living flesh,” he wrote. “This matchless artist … made living men, immortals.”



Two books which had a lifelong impact on van Gogh were The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis, and Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. About his 1890 painting of an old man sitting by a fireplace, called At Eternity’s Gate, he wrote: “One of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence… of a God and an eternity, is the unutterably moving quality that there can be in the expression of an old man… that can’t be meant for the worms.…”



Most recently, my eight-year-old granddaughter–a committed Vincent fan–made me aware of new research declaring Café Terrace at night (1888) to depict the Last Supper, complete with a shadowy Judas slipping out the door, a central Jesus-figure with a cross behind him, and the remaining disciples seated at the tables.



The whole scene is bathed in a golden-yellow hue, van Gogh’s typical allusion to the divine.



Writing to Theo about this work, Vincent said he felt a “tremendous need for, shall I say the word—religion.”



Jeff Fountain is Director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies, and speaks on issues facing Christians today in Europe. He writes at Weekly Word.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The paradox of Vincent van Gogh
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow

A team of Steiger mission is starting conversations about the gospel in the middst of the football celebration in Russia.

 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’ Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’

How can we reach those who call themselves ‘Christians’ but have not experienced a conversion to Christ? Forty missiologists and mission practitioners came together for a Lausanne Movement global consultation in Rome.

 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
How can churches better support singles? How can churches better support singles?

Tina Tschage, on some areas in which other Christians can encourage singles.

 
The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines

The Kirk has begun official procedures to investigate the status and the role of the Westminster Confession of Faith within its denomination.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.