This is an unashamedly pretty picture, and educated people today often feel a bit queasy at the idea that art can be sweet and lovely. Isn’t this a denial of all that is wrong with the world? Shouldn’t art be about weighty and worthy matters?
Van Gogh knew so much about human suffering – not least his own. Once life has shown us its darker sides, we start to take this sort of thing more seriously. Beautiful flowers aren’t a way of avoiding the tougher facts, they are a consolation now that we know.
We need beauty to keep up our spirits and to refresh our appetite for life. Cheerfulness – the mood beauty naturally encourages – is a good state of mind in which to confront difficult practical problems. Like confidence, cheerfulness isn’t a denial of the troubles of the world, it just makes us a little better able to deal with them.”