Lust For Life
Lust for Life is the classic fictional biography of the artist Vincent Van Gogh. It follows Van Gogh from the age of 21, as an art dealer in London, when he first fell in love, up to his death by suicide at the age of 37.
Van Gogh's first love was unrequited love, and his misery due to it was so deep that it affected his work and he was fired from his job. Van Gogh then tried being a teacher, a minister's assisstant, and a bookseller, but failed at all. He next tried to study for the ministry, in the footsteps of his father, but failed the exams. He was then given a temporary missionary post in a coal-mining village in Borinage, which he undertook with zeal, giving away everything he had to the villagers, and leading a life of deprivation so that he could share the villagers misery and be one of them. However he was dismissed from his post and left disheartened about his inability to alleviate the suffering of the village people. From this state of deep sense of failure in his life, Van Gogh found his true calling in life: to be an artist.
Van Gogh stayed in Borinage, drawing the villagers. He then lived with his parents, continuing to polish his drawing skills, and fell in unrequited love a second time. Later, he learned oil painting from his cousin, Anton Mauve, at the Hague. Out of loneliness he befriended a prostitute, saving her from the streets and giving his money for her medical care. Afterwards he lived again with his parents in the country, painting the village peasants. There, a neighbour fell in love with him, but was forbidden from marrying him and tried to commit suicide.
His brother, Theo Van Gogh, who was an art dealer, provided him with a monthly allowance every month, as in investment in his paintings. Van Gogh spent most of his money on materials for painting and models, leaving little left for food and often lived in poverty and starvation at the end of the month when the money ran out.
Van Gogh later lived with his brother in Paris, where he was introduced to Impressionism, and befriended Paul Gauguin, another painter. Van Gogh then lived with Paul Gauguin in a yellow house in Arles, where he painted the famous "Sunflowers". In Arles he developed mental illness and cut of his right ear. He was then admitted to a mental hospital in Saint Remy where he continued to paint. When he got better he went to Auvers and kept prolifically churning out paintings. However he fell into depression and shot himself with a gun.
Van Gogh is portrayed as a very intense and very high strung person. He has rows deep into the night with his brother and with Paul Gauguin, arguing about art. When in love he loves so deeply he is able to make extraordinary sacrifices for his idea of love such as burning his hand in a flame. He has similar passion for his art: he stays outdoors in the hot sun and wind from daylight to night producing painting after painting. Painting is everything to him, taking the place of material comfort, food, love, sex and friendship. He has great determination to get his art right, to produce a masterpiece. We get the sense that even though each painting is created in a day, his work is an accummulation of many years of blood, sweat and tears of practice. He is also portrayed as a very compassionate person. His tireless work for the villagers in the Borinage during his ministry and his treatment of the prostitute show his selfless nature.