The Greats

In 1889, in an asylum at Saint-Remy, Vincent Van Gogh painted Starry Night. He had admitted himself to the insane asylum after suffering a mental breakdown that resulted in the self-mutilation of his left ear. Later that year, he penned a letter to his brother in which he named a few of his own paintings that he found somewhat decent, and declared that “the rest says nothing to me.” Starry Night was one of the worthless paintings. Indeed, Van Gogh went as far as to refer to Starry Night as a “failure” in a letter to fellow painter Emile Bernard. 

In the next century, Albert Einstein introduced his cosmological constant in 1917 to supplement his theory of general relativity. He believed the cosmological constant would counter the force of gravity, allowing his equations to support a static universe—one that is neither expanding nor contracting. When the universe was later shown to be expanding rather than still, Einstein regrettably claimed the cosmological constant as the “biggest blunder” of his career. 

Yet a few years later, in April of 1925, the first copies of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby reached the shelves of bookstores. Readers gave Fitzgerald’s writing mixed reviews, and the book sold poorly- merely 20,000 copies in its first year. In 1940, Fitzgerald died believing that The Great Gatsby had been forgotten, rendering him a failure. 

Starry Night is one of my favorite paintings. I love the dark colors of the cypress tree rising on the left side. I love the bright yellows and warm golds that rest on the swirls of a boldly blue sky. And countless others would agree with my love of this painting, with their own unique versions of appreciation for its beauty. I am also deeply in awe of Einstein’s cosmological constant, which I studied in an Introduction to Astronomy course. The constant, in the end, did not indicate a static universe and Einstein made no blunder, as many acclaimed astronomers have noted. And to go even further back in my education, during my high school years, I read The Great Gatsby, as numerous other high schoolers had done. I can safely say that The Great Gatsby has become deeply-integrated into American education since its publication, and stands a literary classic. 

All of these greats– Van Gogh, Einstein, Fitzgerald– did not realize the merits of their astounding work. Van Gogh did not give himself due credit for seeing beyond the iron bars of his asylum and painting the breathtaking Starry Night. Einstein did not fully comprehend the groundbreaking nature of his cosmological constant, and Fitzgerald did not realize how beautifully The Great Gatsby encapsulated the Roaring Twenties and the American Dream.  

In this blog, I hope to invoke my own thoughts, as well as the thoughts of others, on pieces of literature, art and music. Along the way, I would also like to touch on some of my everyday experiences and to eventually illuminate the reason for my choice of “Jardin à Sainte-Adresse.” But more than anything, I want to find inspiration and appreciation for all things beautiful, because as Monet so wisely stated, “Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” 

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