Lots of people would count Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ as their favourite artworks of all time – the one they would hang on their lounge room wall (if they had a spare a zillion dollars). But of the 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches Van Gogh created, he sold only one work while he was alive. How could that be? How could people not have appreciated this artist’s amazing talent? Were they blind?
The art that preceded Van Gogh was very realistic – made to look like the world we see through our eyes. Van Gogh’s paintings are more about the artist’s psychological experience rather than they are about the specific places he depicts. People who saw these extraordinary were not ready – they didn’t know how to look. But over time the capacity of art to express emotions and sensations has become common place. We learned another way of seeing.