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Van Gogh, Encore
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John Karr (karr) | 76 comments An admirer of Vincent van Gogh's works for a long time, a while ago I dug into his letters and various biographies and like millions of others was struck by the intensity of his life.

From there, mused upon what it might be like to have Vincent among us in modern society during the 'final' year and a half of his life, so I wrote Van Gogh, Encore as speculative, or biographical fiction.

During that time and since, I have often wondered why he seemed to shun photography for his own image. I realize his self-portraits reveal a lot, but it would have been interesting to also observe him in flat reality, and then see how he interpreted himself. I find it compelling to see photos of his landscapes and other portrait subjects to see how interpreted them.

To my knowledge there are no photos of Vincent beyond his early twenties.

Despite flaws -- and who doesn't have them? -- I did see Vincent as a largely sympathetic character, whereas some have written that he may not have been all the pleasant as social company.

On the whole, when not drinking or having anxiety attacks, and when not goaded by Gauguin, I believe Vincent would have been good company. There would have been much to discuss, and he had some true friends, after all.


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Heather | 8271 comments That’s an interesting thought... what he really looked like in photographs compared to what he painted as himself. I would love to see the difference in his eyes, his brow, his wrinkles, his lips... then to understand what he was thinking at the time. Also, to know what was going on in his life by his letters adjacent to a self-portrait at that same time.

I often wonder how others see me as opposed to how I see myself, inside and out. I see photos of myself and I do NOT think I’m photogenic. But then, do I deceive myself when I look in the mirror having my own thoughts that a photo doesn’t display?

True, we don’t have much of the other sides of his correspondences, which is sad.


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Heather | 8271 comments Thank you for expounding on what your thoughts were while you were writing your book, John. It shows a bit of insight to where you got your ‘fictional’ views compared to what we have in history, or lack thereof.


message 4: by John (last edited Apr 24, 2019 04:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Karr (karr) | 76 comments Thanks Heather. I wonder if most of us think our photo images fall short of all impressions we have of ourselves. I do. Maybe it's like a biography. Can most of someone's life really be revealed by someone else in a book, or will it always fall short?


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Heather | 8271 comments Right! I would think a biography would definitely be inferior to an autobiography, anyway. And nobody can know anyone else’s exact thoughts about themselves.


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Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments I always considered photography an illusion of light, and understanding how the camera works makes a difference. Interesting, comparing photos with biographies in their accuracy. IMHO neither are sufficient to fully capture a person's life.

I'm currently reading Van Gogh's letters, I can't say why he shunned photography / why there are no photograph's of him past his 20's. So far, he makes no mention about this medium. He must have come across it with his interest in art but mostly lithographs and paintings have been mentioned so far.


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Heather | 8271 comments I agree with you there, that neither photos nor biographies can completely divulge the whole of a person or their life.
It is interesting to compare the two with the knowledge that we have of them but I believe nobody can ever know the inter workings of another’s life fully.


John Karr (karr) | 76 comments Agreed!


message 9: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments Heather wrote: "It is interesting to compare the two with the knowledge that we have of them but I believe nobody can ever know the inter workings of another’s life fully. "

yeah, always interesting to compare but impossible to know for sure though generates interesting discussions

John, I've got a question, having written a book about VG, what was the most surprising thing you discovered?


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Heather | 8271 comments Good question! I’m curious...


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John Karr (karr) | 76 comments It has been a while now, but I was surprised to learn of Vincent's relationship with Sien Hoornik, the former prostitute who also had a child. The three lived together briefly. Vincent mentions her in his letters. It is very much as if he wanted a family, tentatively gained one, but had no means of support for it -- financially or morally with his own extended family -- and it crumbled away, never really to come close again.

That is the main plot point of Van Gogh, Encore. Yes, Vincent in our modern age but also regaining a family of sorts. With his personal troubles, would he be able to hang onto them?


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Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments John wrote: "It has been a while now, but I was surprised to learn of Vincent's relationship with Sien Hoornik, the former prostitute who also had a child. The three lived together briefly. Vincent mentions her..."

I haven't got to those letters yet, the impression I have so far is that money and material things are not important to him as the well-being of his, I think the word is, soul, matters more. VG wrote many letters but from what I can tell they leave more gaps than answers. It’s a puzzle what changed for him (from these letters I’m reading it seems kind of sudden) for religion to become his main focal point. I’m not sure if this would have coloured how he relates to others, including romantically.


message 13: by John (last edited May 07, 2019 05:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Karr (karr) | 76 comments After Vincent's sudden departure from organized religion, I think it's safe to say he communed with his soul, and perhaps God, in exercising his immense creativity.


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Heather | 8271 comments I think I agree with that, John.


message 15: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey Aronson (geaaronson) | 930 comments How repressive organized religion
is


message 16: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments John wrote: "After Vincent's sudden departure from organized religion, I think it's safe to say he communed with his soul, and perhaps God, in exercising his immense creativity."

interesting, I haven't got to that part but I can see the goodness of his soul is important to him, I get the sense for now he thinks this can be expressed to religion but I'm guessing it's not enough as he doesn't quite gel with it. This is based on what I've read so far, and I've only finished the letters written in 1879.

meanwhile, I have another question for you.

when it came to writing your novel, what came first: the idea or wanting to tell VG's story in a modern setting?


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John Karr (karr) | 76 comments Inkspill wrote: "what came first: the idea or wanting to tell VG's story in a modern setting?"

Thanks for the question. I wanted to see if I could place Vincent in a modern setting as part of making him relatable, to some degree. The problem I have with figures who lived before my time is not having personal experiences from that same era. One can research and default to the idea that many aspects of being human are the same regardless of when you cast a shadow on the Earth.

But pulling him into modern life is not enough for a fiction story, so there had to be a plot. That's where his desire for a spouse and family came in. And once presented with these things, would he be able to manage it, or would the dream get sabotaged by his own anxieties / weaknesses / whatever.

The first working title was The Painter's Dream, as in the end I was not optimistic he could do these things, or a woman would find him appealing enough given his financial and mental situation.

On a personal level, I feel a connection with Vincent, as I suppose anyone who tries to present something creative to the world might. There are roadblocks, personality struggles, etc.


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Heather | 8271 comments I don’t know any published authors myself, the closest is you, John. So it’s nice to hear your perspective and feelings about when you write.
I went to your page and you’ve written a ton of books! It’s interesting that you wrote about Van Gogh because the subject is so different than your usual topics.
What made you decide to write about an artist?


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John Karr (karr) | 76 comments Heather wrote: "What made you decide to write about an artist?"

Thanks Heather. For one, I suppose if I had any talent with visual arts I'd probably go that route, as the effect is far more immediate and perhaps universal, meaning you don't need language to interpret visual art.

A slight drawback to a visual medium is depth, imo. How far into an image can one go to relay a story? Somewhat, but not as deep as a novel, most likely.

I'm no scholar of the visual arts, but of the artist's works I've seen, I connect most with Van Gogh's. The turbulence, the shock of color at times, the settings, so much of it clicks with me.

Add in identification with some of the beleaguered mental aspects and raw determination to produce and I felt perhaps I could add to his narrative by bringing him into the modern world.

In the end the real Vincent was a tragic figure. There was no respite for him on the artistic level when it came to commercial success, or on a personal level when it came to a significant other /family.

There is also the story of Theo, which is its own tragedy. He kept Vincent going, and kept so many of Vincent's works. When Vincent ended himself, Theo soon followed.

Yet it was Johanna, briefly wife of Theo, whom we are all indebted to for bringing Vincent's works into public knowledge. Here V.W. Van Gogh, her son, has an account of the 'exhibitions' that soon crop up after the deaths of Vincent and Theo:

http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/me...

It is all sadly compelling stuff.


message 20: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments Thanks for the link and your posts John, it couldn't have been easy to take a much talked about figure out his time and him in ours.


message 21: by Heather, Moderator (new) - added it

Heather | 8271 comments John wrote: "A slight drawback to a visual medium is depth, imo. How far into an image can one go to relay a story? Somewhat, but not as deep as a novel, most likely. "

I see your point about the two different mediums. One thing about the visual arts is that one looking at a painting, more towards abstraction, can come to his or her own conclusion, complete a thought or story in their mind, whereas a novel, the story line is right there in black and white.

On the other hand, you said it...how much depth can you really get into with only visual arts?


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Heather | 8271 comments John wrote: "There is also the story of Theo, which is its own tragedy. He kept Vincent going, and kept so many of Vincent's works. When Vincent ended himself, Theo soon followed."

You wrote "When Vincent ended himself". Of course there is the fairly recent controversy as to whether he really committed suicide or was murdered. We have had a bit of this discussion before a few years ago, I'm not sure what the consensus is, or if there is one yet.

So John, in your opinion with that knowledge you have of Vincent, what do you think happened? His life was indeed tragic.


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John Karr (karr) | 76 comments Inkspill wrote: "Thanks for the link and your posts John, it couldn't have been easy to take a much talked about figure out his time and him in ours."

Thanks very much for your interest and questions. Always enjoy van Gogh discussions.

I see where Monet's Haystacks recently sold for a bunch of millions of dollars, and Vincent's often do as well. For Vincent, that was also an aspect of the struggling artist theme.


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John Karr (karr) | 76 comments Heather wrote: "So John, in your opinion with that knowledge you have of Vincent, what do you think happened? His life was indeed tragic.
"


Thanks Heather. The recent suicide vs. murdered discussion seems like a reach to me. It's possible, but there was no real controversy at the time of Vincent's death, from what I've read.

If I recall correctly, it took him a day or two to succumb to his abdomen wound. He was conscious during much of that time, even smoking his pipe. Theo was with him at the end. Vincent never mentioned someone else pulling the trigger, and I don't think Theo would have let a murderer of his brother off the hook.

Given Vincent's more unstable moments, I believe it's far more likely he committed suicide.


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Heather | 8271 comments That makes sense. I didn’t know those details about the end and I know Theo wouldn’t have allowed that at all!
Thank you for clearing that up for me!


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John Karr (karr) | 76 comments Welcome


message 27: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments John wrote: "I see where Monet's Haystacks recently sold for a bunch of millions of dollars, and Vincent's often do as well. For Vincent, that was also an aspect of the struggling artist theme."

In one edition of his letters I've got to 1881 in the second one 1880. So far, it seems like money has not been important to him (by choice) but he's trying harder to change.

I'm also not sure if his views on money changes or what he would feel about the value of his paintings now.


message 28: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments John wrote: "Heather wrote: "So John, in your opinion with that knowledge you have of Vincent, what do you think happened? His life was indeed tragic.
"

Thanks Heather. The recent suicide vs. murdered discussi..."


Reading these letters I'm beginning to realise how much of a mythical figure VG has become.


message 29: by Heather, Moderator (new) - added it

Heather | 8271 comments Interesting question, Inkspill, about whether his view of money changes over his lifetime. While you read his letters, I’d be interested to know what you find out...


message 30: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments Heather wrote: "Interesting question, Inkspill, about whether his view of money changes over his lifetime. While you read his letters, I’d be interested to know what you find out..."

In the penguin edition I've got up to 1881, in the Delphi edition it was clearer how the previous couple of years were rough for him but he got through it. The Penguin edition, unlike the Delphi one, does not have all the letters, but the penguin one includes a handful of drawings from his letters.

Also, he's moved away from religion (at one point his letters suggested it completely encompassed him, every thought every idea) and putting more energies into becoming an artist. He doesn't think he's very good but he's working and studying hard, and with Theo's support.

His letters cover 18 years of his life (1872-1889), so far I've read the first 10.


message 31: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) | 33 comments Heather wrote: "Interesting question, Inkspill, about whether his view of money changes over his lifetime. While you read his letters, I’d be interested to know what you find out..."

here's the link to my review Heather https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


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Heather | 8271 comments Thank you, Inkspill! I look forward to reading it when I get a chance. I really appreciate you attaching the link to your review.


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