It is easy to turn someone into a saint, especially someone as brilliant and tragic as Van Gogh.
In fact, I am guilty of doing just that. When I think about Van Gogh, I can almost see a halo above his head. I form an image of a man who nobly pursued beauty in its purest form, a man with an untainted soul who was too good for this world, a man whose unrivalled artistic sensibilities led him to an act of tragic self-harm.
But was Van Gogh a saint?
That of course is a tricky question. But it is clear from his letters that he engaged in behavior that we typically don’t associate with saints.
After falling in love with two women who did not reciprocate his feelings, Van Gogh ended up living with a low class prostitute named Sien.
The following are three sentences taken from three of Van Gogh’s letters.
Van Gogh’s Prostitutes
And I tell you frankly that in my opinion one must not hesitate to go to a prostitute occasionally if there is one you can trust and feel something for, as there really are many.
I am reading the last part of Les Misérables; the figure of Fantine, a prostitute, made a deep impression on me...
To explain my meaning more clearly, let me begin by saying that even his most beautiful weeping Magdalenes or Mater Dolorosas always simply remind me of the tears of a beautiful prostitute who has caught a venereal disease or some such small misery of human life.
So maybe Van Gogh wasn’t so saintly after all.
But then again, maybe there is nothing un-saintly about frequenting prostitutes. Indeed, some have speculated that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.
So maybe we are all too Victorian in our moral sensibilities.
The Catholic Church requires a saint to have performed three miracles. But I don’t see why the Catholic Church should have the final word on this matter. I will therefore articulate the following thesis. I will call it the Ho-Ho-Ho thesis.
Ho-Ho-Ho Thesis: Any saint must sleep with a prostitute at least three times.
See, I am doing it again. I can ‘t help but think of Van Gogh as a saint. And I will do just about anything to continue to do so.