Negativity in the Heart of Nature: A Study of Art of Vincent Van Gogh through Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger

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The focus of this essay is the art of Vincent van Gogh and the way in which van Gogh’s understanding of nature informs his landscape painting. Van Gogh’s descriptions of the relationship between nature and his art betray certain humanist views that invest nature with anthropomorphic elements. Van Gogh seeks to subdue nature in order to uncover its essence and divulge its inner truth. I do not defend van Gogh on these points as it is not my position that there is some hidden truth that must be revealed about nature. I also do not hold that, at bottom, nature and human beings are one. In fact, I argue that these views, precisely, pave the way to the tragedy of van Gogh’s life, because they make him blind to the fact that, in his attempts at wresting truth from nature, he works to uproot himself. My interest in this paper lies along the lines of answering the question that van Gogh’s articulation of his artistic process allows us to ask. This question is: What is the role of aesthetic feeling in the artist’s ability to understand nature and make it intelligible to his audience? The correlate of this question is: How and at what cost does van Gogh’s landscape painting accomplish this transformation of aisthesis into art? In my analyses of van Gogh’s art, nature, and the relationship between feeling and intelligibility, I rely on Nietzsche’s, Heidegger’s, and Hegel’s articulations of these subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-157
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Essence
  • Paul Klee
  • post-impressionism
  • subjugation of nature
  • tragedy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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