I must have been a teenager when I happened upon a book in my father's library entitled Lust for Life which was a journey of sorts into the life of Vincent Van Gogh. As with most experiences at that age it felt intense, exhilarating, rebellious and dare I say even one of the most romantic books I had read at the time. To think that someone would cut their ear off as a gift to a loved one well that just sealed the deal for me. I was inlove with Van Gogh.
We are in the present, and alas the teenager no more, I was still excited to know that not only would Van Gogh's work of art but also his letters were to be centre stage at the Royal Academy of Arts here in London. I excitedly counted the days to when I could go and see the paintings maybe even smell them and be close to my teenage crush of long ago. As one would, I wondered if my love for Van Gogh had been a passing thing of youth or was it more? Had the tears I had shed on reading about his final days been the incomprehension and sensitivity of youth? Had I over dramatized?
The day came and off I went to Royal Academy of Arts and from the first moment I was there it felt like a date with destiny. I was always meant to see this and to feel this way. Each painting seemed to be addressing me, beckoning to me, knowing I had loved it with such intensity, with such innocence and with such youthful vigour. And what better love than youthful love? Van Gogh himself seemed to greet me and me alone as if the man himself knew that I was there to see him and him alone. It was a meeting of old souls who'd met long ago yet still the flame burned on. "Hello dear one, it has been a long time coming but finally we meet face to face."
The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters runs at the Royal Academy of Arts until 18 April, 2010