Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Van Gogh gives critics a finger

Van Gogh wrote to his brother,
“It is fiendishly difficult not to feel anything, not to be affected when those bloody idiots say ‘does he paint for money?’ . . . One doesn’t really care a rap, but it gets one one’s nerves all the same, just like listening to off-key singing or being pursued by a malicious barrel organ. Don’t you find that to be true of the barrel organ, and that it always seems to have picked on you in particular? For wherever it goes, it’s the same old tune . . . .
When people say something or other to me, I shall finish their sentences even before they are out—in the same way as I treat someone I know to be in the habit of extending his finger to me instead of his hand (I tried the trick on a venerable colleague of my father’s yesterday)—I too have a single finger ready and, with an absolutely straight face, carefully touch his with it . . . in such a way that the man cannot take exception, yet realizes that I am giving as good as I damned well got.”