“It does me good to do difficult things. It does not prevent me from having a terrible need of–shall I say the word–religion. Then I go outside in the night and paint the stars and I dream ever of a picture like this…” –Vincent Van Gogh
The above quote is from a letter which Post-impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo. They exchanged hundreds of letters over many years and at times Theo sent money with them. My guess is that Theo was greatly concerned about his brother. Vincent was a religious man who wanted to be a minister but failed the theological entrance exam. Perhaps this is why years later he refers to religion as ‘a terrible need’. The way Vincent’s quote is worded appears to me that he is trying to reassure his brother by explaining how he tries to use his art as a coping mechanism for assuaging himself of this ‘terrbile need’. But was he freeing himself of his need for religion when he painted stars? Perhaps. But I think more likely that Vincent Van Gogh was actually fulfilling his spiritual need by first gazing at the stars and then using that inspiration along with his own spirit and creative genius to express what he felt when he did.
although he never did become a clergyman, perhaps in some ways, his paintings have ministered to many over the years.