My humanities moment took place over a few years. It all started one day when I was in the 4th grade. This was one of my favorite days in elementary school because we had an assembly that day. That meant that after lunch recess we got to do something fun instead of doing math or history or science or something else that was uncolorful and boring. I was really excited to find out that it was an art assemble, which meant that afterwards we would get to paint or draw for the rest of the day. Taped all over the walls of our gym were many colorful, bright, and interesting paintings. When we were all seated on the floor I was able to get a better view of the paintings on my side of the wall. It was very interesting to look back and forth between the different sides of the gym. On the far side the paintings looked just like standard paintings but on the side near to me I could see all the little details. The art teacher went on to explain why the paintings looked different from a distance. These were some of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings and that he used a very unique style and technique. She explained that he is best known for his use of pointillism. This means that he painted using thousands of dots or strokes to create a very detailed and bright picture. My favorite picture that she showed us was of a little town at night. It had blue rolling hills and a swirly starry sky. After learning about his style and looking at more of his paintings we went back to our class and got to try out painting like him. I had so much fun learning about and painting in Van Gogh’s unique style. It was by far my most favorite assembly. In middle school I kept seeing the painting with the swirly night sky and so I decided to look more into Vincent van Gogh’s life. He was born on March 30, 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands to Theodorus van Gogh and Anna Carbentus. Van Gogh was introduced to art very early in life when he worked with his uncle as an art dealer. During his early adulthood he had trouble figuring out his purpose in life. He worked many jobs trying to figure this out; he worked as an art dealer, a bookseller, and even became a preacher at one point. On his preaching mission in Borinage, Belgium, a mining region, he would give Bible readings to the locals. While this was all happening he would write to his brother, Theo, about his journeys. In these letters he would draw little sketches and drawings of what he saw. Which caused Theo to advise him to pursue his passion for art. Van Gogh agreed and soon got art lessons from Anton Mauve. Since Van Gogh didn’t have a paying job anymore, Theo would send him money. Later in his painting career, as compensation for Theo taking care of him, he would give Theo some of his paintings to sell. Vincent van Gogh’s mental health fluctuate all throughout his life. He began a relationship with a former prostitute Sien Hoornik. Together they rented a studio where they lived along with her baby and five year old daughter. The relationship broke off and Van Gogh moved to Arles, Paris to focus on his art. There he rented one of his rooms to fellow artist Paul Gauguin. Paul and him had very different art styles and would often get into heated arguments with one another. This along with the stress of his painting career being unsuccessful caused his mental health to deteriorate. At its worst, he cut off his ear then gave it to a prostitute wrapped in a newspaper. After his recovery in the hospital he went back home to paint. Then feeling his mental health declining again he admitted himself to the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy. While there he experienced a period of extreme confusion and ate oil paint. It was at this asylum that Vincent van Gogh painted The Starry Night, the swirly painting that I had liked so much. With everything becoming too much, on July 27, 1890 Van Gogh shot himself in the chest. He was able to walk back to his house and was found, but it was to late for him. Vincent van Gogh died on July 29, 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Over his lifetime he drew over 850 paintings and about 1,300 works on paper. Sadly, it was only after his death that his paintings found any success and popularity. This has influenced me personally because it taught me to not take everything at face value. You might not know what is going on underneath the surface. With Van Gogh his paintings seemed so happy and playful but behind that he was struggling financially and with his mental health. It taught me to be aware of those around me and to remind myself that not everything is pretty. After learning more about Vincent van Gogh’s life and his struggles it made the painting have a deeper meaning. It was both sad and beautiful to learn about the man behind the paintings. I learned that even in the worst situations people can create eternal beauty.

– Sydnie (Student)