Open Doors USA cites a fascinating story from Godreports: A record 1.2 million visitors came to the giant retrospective of Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam in 1990, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Dutch post-Impressionist’s death. What visitors did not see at that major exhibition were van Gogh’s Christian-themed paintings, which were left in the basement of the museum.
“None of the religious imagery was in the show. It was deliberately kept in the basement,” says William Havlicek, Ph. D., author of “Van Gogh’s Untold Journey” (Creative Storytellers). “In Western art there has been a move toward secularization through existential thinking,” he notes, which followed the disillusionment of many artists after two world wars.
Havlicek spent 15 years researching and studying more than 900 of van Gogh’s letters. His revealing book dispels many of the myths that surround the painter’s tumultuous life. “Vincent’s letters portray a very different story than the popular tale of the mad artist who cuts off his ear,” Havlicek notes. “What emerges instead is a story of selfless loyalty, the epitome of the Gospel’s sacred counsel – ‘love one another.’”
Vincent’s father and grandfather were pastors and it seems many in the van Gogh family gravitated toward religion or art. His father Theodorus – a Dutch Reformed minister — was not known as a compelling preacher, but a “welfare pastor” who distributed food and clothing to the poor, Havlicek notes.