We are inspired by many things. What makes someone pick up a guitar and try to play it? Why are some of us artistic and others not?
And what made an artist like Van Gogh paint with such compulsive passion and intensity?
A look at his birth chart may cast a little light on this.
The part of his chart that particularly stands out for me is the 9th/10th house around his midheaven.
Here we have Venus conjunct Mars in Pisces, along with Neptune in the earlier part of the Fish.
We know he initially wanted to be a priest, and certainly, one interpretation of this aspect, close to the midheaven, could be that he was very much inclined to religious feelings and impulses and would want to use them outwardly, in a career.
Uniting with the numinous
In Pisces, though, it’s often difficult to know where these feelings come from, there’s a lot of subconscious, unfathomable energy here, a deep impulsive need to unite with the numinous, strongly and intensely.
So, in other words, the love principle is very deep here and emotionally supercharged by nearby Mars square to Jupiter.
But although he clearly had a strong spiritual impulse, it never quite seemed to suit or satisfy him being involved in a conventionally religious way, like training for the priesthood.
Expression in the world
The process of painting, using strong imagery and colours, however, eventually gave this deep intensity greater expression in the world.
Painting brought all of this out into the open in a most wondrous flowering of creativity over a relatively short period of time, bequeathing to us an incredible legacy.
His Sun and Mercury in Aries would only heighten this energy and impatience, giving him great verbosity (trine Jupiter) too, plus a tendency towards impatience and anger.
Van Gogh was always likely to travel too. Cancer rising gave him an emotional, caring approach to life but his ruler, the Moon, is in far ranging Sagittarius and close to the Archer’s ruler Jupiter in his 6th house of work. And Jupiter also rules the sign on the midheaven, doubling up.
This in itself, is an indicator of travelling long distances for work, but also has religious and philosophical connotations, if not the deeper, more spiritual impulses.
Although born in Holland, he spent time in London and northern France, before settling in the south of France for those last, few, incredibly intense years of his short life, which produced, arguably, one of the most brilliant outpourings of artistic creativity ever.
It’s as if painting was the only medium which allowed him to express what he felt subconsciously.
However, in the end, even painting failed to keep him long in this world. I’m sure, however, that we are eternally grateful that he stayed long enough to leave us so many paintings to enjoy.
A fish out of water
He sought the eternal numinous in his short life but was never quite satisfied. Ironically, his struggle did achieve eternal fame for him posthumously. He only sold one painting while he was alive.
Looking at his chart as a whole, it is largely top heavy. Van Gogh poured out his soul to the world which could not sustain him.
He was very much a fish out of water.