‘People say that it is difficult to know oneself but it’s not easy to paint oneself either’
Excerpt from a letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, September 1889
My first introduction to the Dutch painter Vincent Willem van Gogh was at school. A tortured artist who cut off his ear and painted thick, brightly coloured swirly paintings.
He felt dramatic, passionate and extreme.
12-year-olds tend to want to produce art that looks more realistic, so I think at the time, I wanted to try and paint like Cezanne. Cezanne’s still life’s hit the dizzy heights of being recognisable yet achievable, with a nice painterly style.
But thinking back, I probably felt I was being sophisticated and different; copying Van Gogh as a young painter seemed too obvious.
It wasn’t until an art trip at 16 to the National Gallery, London that I rediscovered the Sunflowers…