Art: Agony, Bliss & Hard Labor

To his impressionist friends, Vincent Van Gogh was a pathetic puzzle. Renoir, Monet and Pissarro all painted nature ripe and smiling in iridescent veils of sunlight, but the touchy, red-bearded Dutchman couldn't manage that; he seemed to be after something different.

Not until after Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890 did the world begin to find out what he was pursuing. In ten years of agony, bliss and hard labor, he had poured out some 900 drawings and 800 paintings, written hundreds of letters. Self-expression was all he cared about, and the self he expressed was so affectionate, violent and wide open...

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