Was Vincent Van Gogh Successful? What Does It Mean To Be Successful?

There’s this little film called “Loving Vincent“. It’s about Vincent Van Gogh. You know… the painter that cut off his hear? So… during his entire life Vincent only sold one painting. However, his paintings are currently worth millions. Having said that, my question for you today is: “Was Van Gogh successful?”

To be honest, I knew very little about Van Gogh before the film. But there’s something about his story that moves me. Though Van Gogh was incredibly talented, his work was only widely acknowledged after his death. I called it post-mortem success. Like many other artists Van Gogh died pretty poor. Which is pretty heartbreaking, he died poor because he was pursuing his passions. If he had stuck with his previous stable job maybe he wouldn’t have to experience so much misery and hardship.

Was Van Gogh A Loser?

“Loser” might be sound like a harsh term but I’ll let you be the judge. As I said before, Van Gogh only sold one painting during his entire life. So… who was paying his lifestyle? His brother Theo Van Gogh. So… Vincent dropped everything to start a new life as an artist, but his brother was the one paying his bills. Was does that mean? On one hand, I really admire Vincent’s determination to pursue his passions. On the other hand, I can’t help to feel that he was a bit entitled. It’s important to follow our passions. But is it okay to do it at the expense of others?

All of Vincent’s working tools and materials were bought with his brother’s money. Theo was in a better financial situation than Vincent. However, he wasn’t wealthy. Again, if you live your passions but you can’t support yourself financially… what the hell does that mean? No doubt, Vincent had talent. But if he can’t make a living out of his talent, what does that make him? Though, my words sound harsh I can totally empathise with Vincent. As a matter of fact, I don’t think Vincent was oblivious. He also struggled with the idea of Theo paying for his “lifestyle”.

Was Van Gogh successful?

Back to my original question. Was Van Gogh successful? In my opinion, the answer is not that linear. If being successful means that he got to make a living out of his craft, then “no”. However, if it means living life in pursuit of your passions, then “yes”. You see, Van Gogh didn’t die happy. He died poor. His mind was clouded by inner demons. Some people say he attempted suicide by shooting himself and died a few days later.

I guess Vincent’s story really made me think what does it mean to have success. As of right now, I don’t think Vincent Van Gogh was successful. I believe he was incredibly talented with a very peculiar sensibility which made him very unique. To be honest, I’m not quite happy with this realization. Why? Because it shows that talent alone is not enough to succeed. Van Gogh is not unique when it comes to “post-mortem” success, there are many others like him.

Having said this, what is success based on? Luck or hard work? I guess both. I’m sure Vincent was very hard working towards his craft. However, he had no luck in promoting his work to others while he was alive. Let me rephrase it, what he did to promote his work wasn’t enough. Maybe luck is overrated, maybe Vincent wasn’t well prepared enough.

I’ll end this post, with this touching song from “Loving Vincent”:

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