What was Van Gogh like? How did he produce art like his?
Besides the obvious though uninformative answer – genius – it really is hard to say.
But maybe the answers to those two questions lay in Van Gogh’s mind. Maybe what he was like and his genius can be traced to some aspect of his psychology.
I only say ‘maybe’, because I am somewhat suspicious of the psychological in general. But skepticism about the psychological aside, the mind does seem to be an obvious place to look for answers.
Here is a picture of Van Gogh’s psychology at 24.
Van Gogh at 24 (From a letter to Theo)
The history of the Eighty Years' War is magnificent! Whoever should make such a good fight in his life, would do well. In truth, life is a battle, it is necessary to defend and protect ourselves, and we must plan and calculate with a cheerful and brave spirit in order to make progress.
What cannot be cured must be endured, and one must use the weapons within one's reach and the means at one's disposal to make the most of one's powers and gain advantage.
If we could make ourselves a crown of the thorns of life, wearing it before men and so that God may see us wearing it, we should do well.
At 24, Van Gogh liked war, saw the world as a Machiavellian struggle, and wanted to wear before God and man a crown of the thorns of life.