A small collection of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings are now being shown in Fogg Museum. The artist's life was both fascinating and tragic enough to provide ample material for the publicity he has gained, but many people, vexed by the stupendous praise which has been rendered-him, justifiably object to the place he has recently come to occupy, on the grounds that he is highly over-rated as a painter. Now whether or not Van Gogh is over-rated must remain a point for further discussion. It can be said, however, that along with such men as El Greco, Brueghel, Cezanne, and a few others, he has succeeded in stamping every painting which he has executed with the seal of his own unique personality. Many artists have excelled, but few have been as convincing in the field of self-assertion as Van Gogh.
It is my personal opinion that despite the chaotic, half-crazed existence which Van Gogh led, his paintings are as sanc, as natural as any creation ever to come from the brush of an artist. If, as many say, they are the artistic symptoms of a deranged mind, it can be said with equal conviction that in many cases his deranged mind has succeeded in breaking through certain superimposed limits of expression and has gone beyond the barrier of empirical observation in a surprisingly unaffected and natural way. His mind was no hodge-podge while he was actually painting; on the contrary, his work reflects a certain kind of clear-sighted vision, a kind of vision or insight which was neither distorted nor crazy. He merely perceived the distortion and grotesqueness of all the elements which form the world; he saw an object as it existed "in itself," without the factors of perspective, or logical continuity, which after all are man-made and depend upon us for existence. He saw things as they were, alone, and then proceeded to reapply these principles of order to them on his canvases. And this entire process went on very naturally within him as he painted; if he was a madman he was a very keen-sighted and philosophic madman. Such a theory about Van Gogh may not be acceptable but it is simply offered as a suggestion to keep in mind while viewing his paintings.