Author Note: Written to celebrate an artist, whose like the world had never seen and shall never see again. Spoilers for 'Vincent and the Doctor' (S5, Ep10)
" Sometimes moods of indescribable anguish, sometimes moments when the veil of time and fatality of circumstances seemed to be torn apart for an instant" (January 1889)
"I risk my life for my work and my reason is half founded"
Vincent Van Gogh (in his letters to his brother Theo)
Fatality of Circumstances
The colour is everywhere.
He sees it when he opens his eyes; the gold and yellow of early morning mixing with the grey cast shadows like leftovers of night. Even when he closes his eyes, the hues of navy spiralled with slate dance behind his eyelids, the darkening shades taunting him, inviting him. Paint us! ; they cry. Capture us! Nature is shouting at him- Come and get me! - her voice full of majesty, her tone of sloping fields and Sunflowers and he has no choice but to listen. He must listen, for she is calling to him. Calling for him to take up his tools, to apply brushstroke upon brushstroke of oil paint on a clean canvas that doesn't stay clean for long. The virginal purity of the white is soon enhanced into more than it has been. It is no longer just white. It is scarlet and olive, sculpting cypresses and cornfields with his strokes, delicate and determined. The rhythm of the world sings to him, and he replies the only way he can. By trying to recreate it in the style that he knows, an answering tune of the same song, only with an altered pitch of thick oil paint and horsehair brushes. He does it slowly, but not too slow. Nature doesn't like to wait for her image to be captured.
She calls to him
Only he can answer
Fou Roux, they called him in Arles. The Redheaded Madman. And maybe, he supposes this is true, but at least he can see the colours. He tries to capture what he sees, how everything is not as simple as people like to assume. The sky is not just black, but navy, with the vestiges of late evening clouds dashed with pink hidden in the dark. The stars are spirals of light, the sirens of the skylight calling his name as he watches them, the white twisting and altering with the shades of the universe. Men have closed their minds and hearts to the colours around them, while his has remained open.
The Doctor understood. Not Doctor Gachet, with his homeopathic treatments, his comments on how he had treated other artists before, how he had seen this depression time and time again, created from frustration and irritation at the world not being able to see what he could. None of this meant he understood Vincent, and when he tried to describe the colours, the Dr had tried to calm him down, thinking him becoming hysterical, his voice low and grey pebble mellow. No colour. Dr Gachet cannot hear the colours, and Vincent considers the man as sick as he, if not more. If you have no colour, then what can you strive for? Yet he remained calm for the moment. He did not want to return to Saint-Remy-de-Provence.
The Doctor talked about his work. The Doctor understood. The Doctor and Amy. Beautiful Amy, with her song of sadness and her red hair, auburn melting into orange with a wash of scarlet. He paints her name on the vase of the sunflowers in some kind of reverence, a message to the future he knows she will receive, seeing her smile, feeling a kinship when he saw the tear fall from her eyes. He cries too, but for different reasons. Yet Amy Pond can go on, therefore so can Vincent Van Gogh. The two travellers in their machine, in which all of time and space could be repainted, seen in the touch of a button. The Doctor called it a Tardis in passing. Tardis. It might be considered a ship to some, but Vincent felt the thrumming of its engines like the beat of a heart, heard its song inside his head, like a heartbreaking melody he was privileged to be privy to and saw the colours of the universe for a glorious fleeting glimpse.
The Doctor gave him the universe. And for a moment, gave him hope.
But no hope or happiness can cast away the shadows. Sometimes he finds he cannot paint, the brushes only wood in his hands, the fields and skies and people uninspiring and dull, the melancholy grasping him with a feverish intensity. In these moments, he wants no one to see him, not even his beloved Theo, and he curls up in a ball on his bed like he wants to escape the world. He's tired, so very tired. And frustrated. The Doctor has shown him the future, a marvellous world of mechanism and colour, his work a familiar element in an alien world, yet half the paintings on the wall of the Musee d'Orsay have not been painted. And he must paint them, for it is his compulsion. When he finds the views or people that reflect the ones on the walls, he forgets that he has already done these in terms of the future. Every brushstroke is new; every nuance of tone or shadow is unique to his eyes.
He finally finishes the Church at Auvers, now with no unearthly Krafayis tormenting this earth, no glimpse in the windows; the poor creature that saw no colour because he could see nothing at all. Other works are completed too, and he tries to show the emotion he feels in his soul, the turbulent feelings of distress that has been an undercurrent all his life, but is now beginning to come forward with more and more prominence. He wants to paint but how can he when the world wont let him? When everybody leaves him- even the Doctor and Amy- leaves him all alone with only Nature to shout at him. The sound is overbearing now, and he's tired, so tired of hearing it. It's loud in his mind, loud in his thoughts, and he just wants to be left alone to paint. So one day he tries to block out the sound with a knife. It is an attempt he only half completes, and he regrets it afterwards. For what is his art if he can't see the colours calling to him?
Fortunately he can hear with the other ear, but his depressions- as Gachet calls them- are deepening. His mind keeps returning to the Doctor and Amy, and all the beauty of the universe, the swirls of colour and the song of time in his head, yet it does not lift him. Not all good things can block out the bad.
He starts a painting of cottages placed on a hill on the 27th of July, fields of yellow and green grass in which nestles whitewashed buildings, yet he is nearly finished when he sudden becomes tired again. Not frustrated or filled with upset at his world. Just tired. And he knows his song of sadness must finish, end quietly with no shouts of anger or disappointment. He cannot go on like Amy does. But he is ready.
So he stands in field, the wheat stalks rubbing against the patched jacket he is wearing, his straw hat pulled up on his head so he can see the golden majesty of the sun against his face, feel the beams touching his skin, a welcoming friend, before he pulls the trigger on the pistol that is pointed at his chest. He registers the pain, like a silver flash to his senses, and notices the crimson bleeding down his stomach. He is dimly aware that he has failed in his attempt, like he fails in all attempts, and the tiredness seeps into his bones again like the mixing of paint and water, diluting his senses. All he wants to do is lie down, sleep, so he makes his way painfully back to the Ravoux Inn where he lodges. The pain pounds colour behind his eyes, scarlet then slate, then the colour of sunflowers. The colours are getting closer and closer to becoming black.
The Ravoux child, Adeline, is watching him as he walks through the door. She sees him bent over, yet only looks at him curiously, her twelve years not enough experience to allow her to register what is wrong. Her hair is plaited with blue ribbons today. Mrs Ravoux asks him if he is all right, and he barely knows what he answers as he climbs up to his quarters, stumbling on the stairs.
Details are blurry after that, smudges of colour in the rain, black with flecks of light when his eyes are closed against the world. He realises he is dying, yet sees it as some kind of peace. He has done what he can with the life he has been given. The Doctor would be telling him to fight, not to give up, but no Doctor can cure all ills. Not this ill.
Theo is at his bedside, and that is all that matters. His brother holds his hand, the sensation making Vincent not feel so lonely, and asks him in his comforting gentle way why, why he pulled the trigger, but Vincent cannot answer. He has told his brother everything, yet some things over the last few months he has kept from him, a fact he can scarcely believe himself, for it is so unlike him. He doesn't tell Theo about the Doctor or Amy or the monster in the window of the church at Auvers, for his brother could hardly believe him. He cannot answer why for he has not the words to describe it, only the colours in his paintings and the rhythm of the sadness in his head. For he knows it is time to go.
Instead he whispers what he sees to be a solid truth, for he has lived with the knowledge for so long. Even the fact that one-day, he will leave a legacy of art that which he hoped to achieve in life, does not sway him from this. He knows what he has felt all his life, and he cannot see it changing as he enters into death.
"La tristesse durera toujours" he tells his brother sadly, a fond smile on his face. The colours glint in his mind, behind his eyes, and he sees cornfields and irises and a room full of sunflowers from a girl with red hair. And despite everything, he wishes to see the girl and her companion one last time, to hear the song of the universe in his head. And for a moment he watches as he again sees the colours, the spectrum blending before him, shades and hues of every medium and palette. He can only smile briefly, his mood of anguish momentarily torn apart in the beauty, in the silent halls of his thoughts where the sunflowers of his body are wilting, yet whereas the sunflowers of his mind are in perfect bloom, the petals not even yet withering at the edges. He thinks of his last words, and for one pure second, realises he was wrong.
Then the colours fade, and finally the universe falls silent.
-A/N: La tristesse durera toujours- "The sadness will last forever."
Also, for the sake of this story, Vincent cuts his ear off in 1890, after the Doctor comes, as there is no mention of it in the episode. I know this isn't factually correct, so apologises.