Van Gogh’s “Almond Blossoms”
There is certainly quite a bit in art that can be appreciated with one’s intellectual ability. Here is an example, from Van Gogh.
Van Gogh gave this painting to his brother Theo on the occasion of the birth of Theo’s son. Van Gogh wrote to Theo:
I should have greatly preferred him to call the boy after Father, of whom I have been thinking so much these days, instead of after me; but seeing it has now been done, I started right away to make a picture for him, to hang in their bedroom, big branches of white almond blossom against a blue sky.”
It’s easy to see that the branches multiply away into the sky, just as through the generations a family tree extends into the future. This is an appreciation of the painting’s intellectual content. But the notion of a “family tree” is ancient. It is not the intellectual content of this work that earns it the reputation as being one of Van Gogh’s “most beautiful paintings.”
Rather, it is the beautiful meaning of Van Gogh’s emotions about this family tree that does so. The emotional insight into this beautiful meaning is captured by the painting and is communicated to us. And that can only be appreciated through the use of one’s emotional, rather than intellectual, ability.