Catherine Mills on Van Gogh – 2 April 2019

Catherine Mills is a distant relative of Vincent Van Gogh and entertained the members with her knowledge of the artist. Using PowerPoint slides she brought home the wealth and prolific range of his drawings, illustrations and paintings. Being a troubled young man, from a middle class Dutch background, he had attempted to follow in his Father’s Dutch Reformist ways but always seemed to fail with the fairer sex. His father & grandfather were both pastors in the Dutch Reformed Church but other relatives were in the Art Gallery business. Vincent tried working in the Art Gallery of one uncle – didn’t work out. He then studied for the ministry – didn’t work out. Later he lost his belief in God.

While on one of his many painting excursions in northern Europe, he fell in love with a Belgian prostitute who eventually rejected him and returned to prostitution. His many drawings of poor mining workers and then weavers confirmed his interest in ordinary people and their toils. Catherine said that, when in Antwerp, Van Gogh did try to study formal art, but this was not for him. Instead his focus was on sun flowers. Vincent said, “My paintings are a cry of anguish while symbolising gratitude in the rustic sunflower.”

Many of his paintings were given to people as “thank-yous” for bed & board, drinks & entertainment. Theo, his brother, bought one painting every month to further support his endeavours. During his time in the South of France, Vincent  shared an apartment with Paul Gauguin, however because of his erratic behaviour, especially with the cutting off an ear incident, Gauguin feared for his safety and left. Later Vincent was taken into hospital because his mental health had deteriorated and after a short period of release he had a relapse.

Van Gogh put his heart & soul into his works, and this assisted the healing process for him. Some of the facts and figures relating to Vincent Van Gogh quoted by Catherine were impressive: he sold only one painting in his lifetime; he shot himself at the age of 37 and died 2 days later; a chinese film magnate paid £31M for his still life “Vase with Daisies and Poppies” in 2014; a dedicated museum in Amsterdam, houses in excess of 900 of his drawings and paintings.

Harry Jackson gave a worthy vote of thanks to Catherine and complimented her on her vast knowledge of the master.

Ieuan explains matters to Catherine!