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15 October 2018

Still Life with Sugar Bowl and Peach with Leaf (+ Van Gogh on talking vs. doing)



Related to my postings on mindful studio practice, I often read renowned writer Maria Popova's work (my previous mentions here). As I spend studio time thinking about the relationship between ideals and practice, Popova's piece on "Van Gogh on Principles, Talking vs. Doing, and the Human Pursuit of Greatness" addresses this. She begins:

"Albert Camus memorably admonished that those who prefer their principles over their happiness remain unhappy, suggesting that such rigid personal dogmas at the expense of actionable happiness are a form of especially dehumanizing self-punishment. Nearly a century earlier, Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853–July 29, 1890) explored this disconnect with great wisdom in a letter to his brother Theo, found in the 800-page treasure trove Ever Yours: The Essential Letters."

Later in the article:

"[In a letter to his brother, Van Gogh] considers the relationship between abstract principles and concrete actions — the disconnect between the two often produces self-righteous hypocrites who, despite their holier-than-thou air, are no better than those Parisian artists:

'Don’t think that I look with contempt on people such as you describe because their life isn’t founded on serious and well-considered principles. My view on this is as follows: the result must be an action, not an abstract idea. I think principles are good and worth the effort only when they develop into deeds, and I think it’s good to reflect and to try to be conscientious, because that makes a person’s will to work more resolute and turns the various actions into a whole. I think that people such as you describe would get more steadiness if they went about what they do more rationally, but otherwise I much prefer them to people who make a great show of their principles without making the slightest effort to put them into practice or even giving that a thought. For the latter have no use for the finest of principles, and the former are precisely the people who, if they ever get round to living with willpower and reflection, will do something great. For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together.'" Read more.

If you enjoy this painting, you may also like to see some of my other paintings of peaches.

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