Vincent van Gogh sees his legacy

March 30, 2019 • 1:30 pm

After visiting the van Gogh Museum and then seeing all the van Gogh key rings, tee shirts, and coffee mugs on sale at the Flower Market, I said to my friend, “Wouldn’t van Gogh be amazed if he could be here today and see how beloved his work is?”

Alas, that will never be:  the man died thinking he was a failure. But Grania sent me a short clip from an episode of Doctor Who in which the Doctor and his companion bring Vincent to the Musee d’Orsay to show him what happened. It’s very moving.

Tomorrow: in which I eat a raw herring!

38 thoughts on “Vincent van Gogh sees his legacy

  1. That scene gets me every time. Would be amazing to bring many scientists, artists and inventors from the past to see what their legacy and what become of their ideas.

  2. Moving indeed, even though I wasn’t too nice about him the other day. It’s sad indeed that many artists struggled, and died in poverty, when their works would later be admired by millions. Isn’t that part of our condition, that we’d like to leave something behind and live forth in some way, but will never know. Maybe that’s a good thing, for there is always a chance, however small, if we indeed leave something behind.

    1. Ah legacy. I’m starting to call BS on the quest for legacy. I think my only legacy will be that I sometimes cheered, sometimes annoyed people with my sense of humour.

      1. That’s a tad misanthropic for me 😉 Of course having a great time trumps leaving a legacy, and he’d probably preferred not living in poverty over praise after his death, but that’s not the spirit of the bit. My hunch is that most people would like to be remembered well, even if it can’t matter to them, since they’re dead.

      2. However, poor Van Gogh expressed his very self in his extraordinate paintings and was so unhappy that people did not appreciate them. I don’t know how much he cared about legacy; I suppose he would be happy if some of his paintings were bought at barely the profit margin by ordinary people to decorate their living-rooms. But he never got this.

      3. Getting little snippets into your life, Diana — how much you love your dog and delight in the little squirrels and birds on your property and on your walks, and how you capture the nervousness of that male cardinal “worried about his redness”; how intelligent, honest, fun, kind and wise you are; and so much more —
        you’ll always have a place in my memory and in my heart.

      4. One of the outcomes of the no free will position we all shape the world, it is just that some of get our names in print, so to speak.

        It all boils down to luck.

  3. When I saw that episode of Doctor Who, if I weren’t already dead inside, I would have cried. It is very moving. I also was elated when the Doctor rescued Caecillius and his family from the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and was elated that some of the writers must’ve studied Latin from the same textbooks as me.

    1. I must catch up on my Dr Whos.

      Doctor Who does like weaving stories around historical figures. Probably one of their best and most moving episodes was ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, about Madame Pompadour. Very sad ending. And a very neat twist in the tail. (Those two things are not mutually exclusive).


  4. To appreciate Van Gogh and how he thought about himself, read Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (Penquin Classic). It’s only 500+ pages 🙂 It is simply captivating.

    Another suggestion: attempt to reproduce one of Van Gogh’s paintings…this allows one to enter into the inner world of Van Gogh – I just finished ‘Patience Escalier.’

    I’ve been to the Van Gogh Museum and have enjoyed his works in several museums.

    1. I’ve seen a few Fan Gogh copies in thrift stores. One, Irises, was pretty darn good. I bought it for 3 or 4 bucks.

  5. Sacre Bleu a fictional novel set in (mostly) the impressionist era is a brilliant book by Christopher Moore. It has Van Gogh as one of the central characters.

    Well worth a read.

  6. That was a typically excellent performance by Bill Nighy (as the art expert). Just so convincing in the part.

    I don’t know how many here have idly speculated how a historical figure would react if we could bring them into the present day and show them the development of their legacy. As an engineer, I occasionally used to contemplate what it would be like to show George Stephenson a TGV (Train Grand Vitesse) as the current development of his vision of railways. I think he would be delighted, though possibly not surprised.


    1. I have just such a fantasy, which is analogous to the Van Gogh story here. Imagine being able to take Gregor Mendel aside and show him any introductory biology textbook. There, in the beginning pages on the chapter on genetics, he would see his portrait and summaries of his experiments on pea plants. He was never recognized in life, and he knew that he did something important. But no one else did.

      1. I notice that Jason Bosch had the same idea in comment #1 (though I noticed too late to append my comment to his). I have a feeling that it’s probably quite a common train of thought, but I’ve got no evidence one way or the other.


  7. Yuck! I am totally unfamiliar with Doctor Who. I hear the name, but I’ve never seen anything. At least until now. And I’ve always wondered how it would be if Vincent saw the way people love his paintings now. (I love his paintings now.)

  8. Beautiful scene from a great episode. Much of it is centred around Vincent’s mental health issue, and the scenes after the one shown above don’t shy away from his suicide. It was the first, and to date only I think, episode of Doctor Who where a help line for “those affected by the issues raised” was advertised once the credits rolled.

  9. That whole episode is great, it deals with Von Gogh’s (probable) bipolar and offered helpline numbers directly after it aired, but that scene gets me every time

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