The British pronounce Vincent Van Gogh’s last name “Van “Goff.” Why? I’m not sure, but it has something to do with how the English language struggles with anything that ends with an ‘o’ and a ‘g’ and an ‘h.’ We won’t go there.
So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, last week Janice and I went to the Van Gogh (pronounce it as you will) experience down in Miami. It’s housed at the Olympia Theater (we remembered it as the Gusman Center), a wonderful old “atmospheric” architecture theater. It’s the only one in Florida except for the Tampa Theater in, uh, Tampa – a place worth going to just for the organ recital.
I don’t know about the Tampa Theater, but COVID pretty much killed the Gusman Center, so this exhibit is taking full advantage of the otherwise empty place. You can’t tell where the seating section ends and the stage starts—it’s quite an innovative use of the space. I don’t know how long the exhibit will stay, and don’t know how long the Olympia will survive, but I’m glad we went.
Van Gogh, not Van Goff, was a preacher’s kid. He started out going into the ministry like his dad, but eventually dropped out. He became an evangelistic missionary to the poor, but when he sold everything he had and gave it to the poor (following Mark 10:17ff), they kicked him out for being too “extreme” in his interpretation of Scripture.
Of course, it may have been because that was an early manifestation of his mental illness, I don’t know, but it set him out into the world of art. Western Civilization has not produced a more recognized artist than Van Gogh. His pieces sell for 70+ million dollars each now. We know him today as brilliant and remarkable. In his lifetime though? He sold one painting. One.
I’m not into sunflowers. And he was. But his Starry Night is something to behold. I see the brilliance of the artist, particularly if it’s true that he was colorblind, and poor of seeing, generally. I just wish people in his time recognized his talent.
There was one person who did. That was his brother Theo. Theo sponsored Vincent as he pursued art. Theo paid his rent, generally kept him going. It is said that Theo truly loved his brother and believed in him as an artist.
When Vincent committed suicide at age 37, the news captivated the art world, and within a year people were flocking to his art. Suddenly his art was worth money, but what strikes me is that neither Vincent or Theo got to benefit from the popularity. Theo died only 6 months after his brother did. They were buried together.
I don’t think Vincent would have lasted as long as he did if it had not been for Theo. And because the bulk of his work was done in the last 2 years of his life, we owe the beauty of his work to that extra longevity, such as it was.
The point for me is that we all need a friend. We all need somebody to believe in us. And occasionally we need somebody to fill in the gaps of our lives, financial or otherwise. And sometimes we are Vincent, and sometimes we are Theo. Proverbs 17:17 says: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Theo lived up to that, and so should we. The Apostle Paul said “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;” (Romans 12:10). And in John 13 Jesus said: “By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (v.35).
Beloved, let us love one another,
“Better is a dish of vegetables where love is Than a fattened ox served with hatred.” Proverbs 15:17