Artist/Filmmaker Brings van Gogh’s Story to the Screen

Alan Suemori
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

“Either he will go mad or he will leave us all behind. Which of the two it will be I am not able to foresee.”

— Camille Pissarro

At 27, he was already a failure. Born into an ambitious, middle-class family of Protestant ministers and boulevard art dealers, Vincent van Gogh spent most of his young life wandering around the lighted corners of his world like a lost king searching for his secret kingdom. He had first dreamed of becoming an art monger like his uncles and worked in The Hague, London and Paris as a lowly sales clerk. But his crude social skills and moody temperament soon alienated potential customers and sent him packing. For a brief time, he taught in small, impoverished private boys schools in England, but quit because of the squalid conditions and an unrequited love affair. Finally, van Gogh turned to the path of his father and grandfather and began to prepare for life as a missionary. But he failed his training course and was even rejected as an unpaid volunteer serving the most wretched of parsonages. In desperation, van Gogh crowned himself an artist and in 10 short years produced over 800 paintings, including several timeless masterpieces that changed the art world forever.

At an age when most serious artists were already refining their skills and expanding their palette, van Gogh was just beginning. From the very start he worked furiously, trying to make up in a few years what others had taken decades to learn. At first he mimicked a new style of painting called Realism that broke away from the traditional salons and academies that stubbornly idealized their subjects. But, soon, he went even further.

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Alan Suemori teaches Asian American history at ‘Iolani School. He is a former Hawai’i Herald staff writer.

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