Vincent Cassar
February 17, 2023

The Many Faces of Vincent Van Gogh

A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.

Vincent has been with me all my life. I was named the patron Saint of Kindness. Don Maclean’s song Vincent (1972) the line ”this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you” I took as my leitmotif. I found a badge on the school playground that simply said I am a Genius which confirmed my specialness in my eyes.

I am my paintings

When I saw Vincent by Himself 
I thought it earmarked me
for a lifetime of solitude.
It was Van Gogh in self-portraits,
himself in isolation.
And his account of himself as told
by the letters he wrote.
I thought his work too obvious.
Too childlike.Too sickly and too garish.
With its over ripe fruit
bursting out of its skin.
My Art is to console those
who are broken by life


However, when I saw Sunflowers (1886) in the flesh they lit up the room. So alive so there I could taste it. Smell it. Breathe it. I wanted to dive into it. And live in that world of colour and sensation. I realised I do. We all do!  The essence of nature is beauty.

Van Gogh produced over 800 paintings as though he was constantly seeking to nail the moment down on canvas. Thirty-five of which were self-portraits .I wanted to look at him with his/these eyes.

With Pipe 1886

His first.
He looks startled! 
And extremely serious. 
And exceedingly old. 
And so very formal.
The dark whole of his mouth 
is a hole you could pour yourself into.  The blackness of life is closing in 
and threatens to overwhelm him.
He’s 33 the same age Christ died
He looks surprised at what he’s doing.
He had failed at everything else.

I have spent my life trying to 
find a way of being that didn’t 
make me feel wretched

Sad sullen eyes, 
Angry face.
Slightly petulant,
Clenched impatient jaw
He wants to leap behind you 
And get on with things…
His collar is too tight. 
Restraints barely hold him.
The more one lingers 
The angrier he becomes.
He’s annoyed with himself for trying 
And annoyed with himself for failing… 

God made me a painter
for those who are not yet born.

Autumn 1886 Paris
Self-Portrait 1887

Wow! He really is a ginger nut.
He looks like he’s sucking a mint 
Before screaming You Kut!!
At the world.
At himself. 
And God no doubt!
Melding in with the colours 
and the world that surrounds him 
Like a Chameleon.
Intense. Compact. Contained.
His mouth is almost open to whisper:

I’ve found something I can devote myself 
to heart and soul. That gives me
inspiration and meaning to my life.

Vanny by Sunlight.
Mad and happy.
If stars are yellow then his hat is 
the sun orbiting his face.  
Straw sunshine manifesting itself
and radiating rays out to the world. 
And absorbing them.
Look how red his ears are 
Look how folksy he is
He is his own sunflower.
I am everything inside
and outside of me.
In those moments when nature
is so beautiful the paintings
appear as in a dream.

With Straw Hat Summer 1887
Autumn 1887

Weird black eyes
as though he has no soul.
Desperately sad.
Engulfed in a hurricane of emotion
Like Icarus he has flown too close
to the sun. 
His face scorched 
He has defied god(s) too often.
He is a weight dropped into a pool 
that added to the consciousness
of the world and ripples out ad infinitum
The very tight lipped mouth
Sewn together says I could speak volumes.
Then the world would know what is in
the heart of a nobody like me. 


You are travelling into his face.
On lots of separate lines
His brush is not flowing its paddling
Dabbing up and down in and around. 
His palette a petri dish of paint, 
Hues of blues swirling in a whirl
In a vortex.
The way his jacket blends in 
He’s either coming out of an ocean
Or fading into the universe 
Perhaps hovering…
Death will take us to another star.
It’s the celestial means of locomotion 
as railways are the terrestrial means.

With Grey Felt Hat Winter 1887/88
Self-Portrait 1887–88

He’s attacking himself!
Scarring himself with each jab.
Scoring marks into his own flesh.
His face is an open wound, 
His red hair like blood. 
His nose is pustulent, 
His neck a tourniquet 
His eyes dead. 
The blackness beyond him is 
because he’s already in hell.
He is holding his breath 
while an inner screech of anguish 
Is going on silently, 
and very far from calmly.
Some people say I’m mad, but
a grain of madness is the best art

He is made of sculptured wood. 
A puppet with a green board. 
The paint goes around his shaven head.
Impossible to get inside that mind 
And fathom those thoughts 
He’s looking straight at God 
With terrified eyes knowing 
He has been weighed in the balance 
And found wanting. 
I put my heart and soul 
into my work, and I have lost 
my mind in the process.

Dedicated to Paul Gauguin Sep 1888

I am kurious oranj indeed!
All the bright colours are outside of him
He is almost deathly 
as though drained of life 
Like a ghost in a hat
Aching to say “I’m not mad! I’m ok 
If I hold this pipe in my mouth
For as long as I can hold
my hand over a candle flame 
Everything will be alright.”
Though I am often in the depths
misery, there is still calmness, 
pure harmony and music inside me.

August 1889

Confident, competent and inspired. His eyes are blue for the first time. Like his smock, like the cosmos. He is looking forward to his eternal life. He has a ticket for that celestial train to the stars.
Be clearly aware of the stars. And infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.

Without beard Sep 1889 Reim

His last! He’s staring you out. 
Daring you to not accept him.
His eyes are cloudy.  
He’s lost his way and is asking for love? 
His lips so tender. So white
There is kindness there too. 
And a quest-ion Am I good enough? 
This is the potato face of a little boy. 
He looks his youngest ever
His shirt makes him look as though 
He’s in prison
I could weep over this one.
I take great care of myself by
carefully shutting myself away

Van Gogh was a new kind of Everyman. A spiritual, an all too physical (sensual) man and a thoughtful (existential) intellectual human. We can all have our own versions of Van Goth…I’ll take the one with the Absinthe stained visions… the patron saint of kindness, a closeness with all things natural that some call god … 

Love is something eternal. The aspect may change but not the essence.

Vincent Cassar

Vince is co-host of The Wonderbook and a published author and playwright Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.