He himself wanted to be hardworking and upright in his job like a shoemaker, so maybe therefore he painted shoes, but he painted also sunflowers because he himself was one of them. Like a sunflower he collected the solar fire of love in his heart in order people to have been able to warm themselves by it until today, 120 years after that July 29 of 1890, although 10 years earlier, in July 1880 , Vincent had written to Theo,
"You can carry a big fire in your soul and no one comes to warm oneself by it; the people passing by see nothing but a little smoke that goes up the chimney, and go further , each of them- one's own way ."
The sunny sunflower fire in his soul was burning for the miners in Borinage, for them- the tormented, he descended into the most dangerous shaft, for them- the forgotten- he faced against the owners of the mines, who "give the jobs to the men thinking like them”, in opposing to them never to be able to get a job from them. There was no job to be given to the man who stretched the sail "Love" on his boat rather than the sail "Greed for money and ambition” (from his letters from November 1881).
"When the greed for money and the ambition in a man are no less than his love, then I think, not everything about this man is in order." (November 1881)
Not everything was in order with these men because “to believe in the existence of a person, they must see this person's means of subsistence, and the existence of that person alone is not a proof to them that the means of subsistence of this person are real." (November 1881)
To show these gentlemen that his means of subsistence existed and he himself existed , too, he had to show them "his artist's paw",
“And then we have to use that paw to that extent to which our strength allows us.”(November 1881)
And he used his artist's paw and the sun in his heart more than his strength allowed him, risking his life, in order all people - rich and poor, hard-working and idle, to be able to understand what painting is, to understand that,
"The figure of a digger- some furrows in the field, a view to the sands, the sea and the sky- are serious subjects , yet so difficult, but so beautiful that it is worth pledging your life to transmit the poetry that is hidden in them.” (August 1882)
And later people would not only see and understand this poetry, but also would not be able to imagine their world without it, in the same way as they could not imagine their life without love, which in November 1881 Vincent wrote about,
"To live without love is immoral and sinful."
Vincent believed that life ” in the flesh” was truer and more important than the life “in pictures”, to bear children -more important than to “bear” pictures. Maybe therefore he praised so highly the "rough, rural realism”. He did not “embark” on dreams and abstractions, and worked like a digger, a reaper, or a peasant, in the open fields, and his paints blended with sand, and his paintings were blown by the stormy winds in the same way as the farm workers were exposed to natural disasters. Yet in this way, paintings “in flesh” were born. Paintings, from which the nature itself speaks to us. Paintings that show us who the Creator is, and that connect us again to Him in flesh and spirit.
"It is wonderful to watch an object, to begin to like it, to meditate on it, and to hold it in your mind, and then to say to you, it is that what I will draw, and then to draw it until it itself stands in front of yourself." (1882)
And they are standing in front of us: the women-miners carrying bags of coal in Borinage, Cien with her daughter, the digger, the blossoming almond orchards of Arles, the olive groves of Provence, the postman Roulen, father Tangui. The crooked shoes are in front of us: "in flesh”, full of spirit and character. In front of us are the sunflower heads- light and powerful- like the "artist's paw" that painted them.
Not abstractions, no dreams, no nightmares, no fairy tales, but the things of life in flesh and full of character and spirit, are looking at us and speaking to us from the paintings of Vincent.
"If you do want to do something everlasting you have to work as peasants do and with the same humility."
"What I have done is a little bit rough and raw realism compared to their abstractions, but there is some rural flavour and smell of the earth in my work ..."
“Our duty is to think, not to dream. These reveries are like dreams or nightmares. They evoke in me the painful feeling of a failure, not of a progress.”
"If I had enough courage to relax freely, the article by Orie (art critic) would encourage me to risk more to get away from reality and do something with colours, something like music tones, such as the works of Monticelli, but the truth is so dear to me and also the strive to remain upright- I think really I do prefer to work with the colours like a shoemaker rather than like a musician. "(1890)
This was exactly the thinker-shoemaker, not the dreamer-abstractionist who created the music of the starry night, the song of the ripe grain, the poetry of the delicate cypresses and the far mountains. He created them with the spirit of the man in love with life and people, a worker with an artist's paw in his modest studio, away from the noise and gossip, a man who was longing for fraternity between artists.
“ Another spirit reigned among the artists at earlier times, now they devour each other and have become eminent gentlemen who live in villas and make intrigues.” (1887)
Vincent had this spirit of fraternity and spread it to the other artists. He has been spreading this spirit up to now, and in 1890 he had no doubt it would be so because he wrote to Theo:
“Do you know what I often think about? About something I told you earlier- even if I do not succeed, yet I do believe that the thing I have worked for will be taken over by other people. Not directly, but a man who believes in truth is not alone.”
No, Vincent is not alone, because countless people have lived with his truth – shoemakers and artists alike.