Thomas Merton and Vincent van Gogh: The map of two pilgrim journeys to the true self in art and parable

Hutchinson, Paula Hazel (2007) Thomas Merton and Vincent van Gogh: The map of two pilgrim journeys to the true self in art and parable. MTh(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis looks at the search for the true self as taken by the renowned contemplative writer, Thomas Merton (1915-1968), and the nineteenth century artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). These two are observed side by side as pilgrim figures, journeying and struggling through high and low times of joy and suffering, evidencing the experience of the dark night of the soul as a key facet to any kind of rebirth experience into light, and the awakening of the true self. Both find in art a means of immersion into contemplation and prayer, and a sharing in the creativity of God. Both also reveal in their art and writings the unity of God and nature, and a strong self examination, as portrayed in the portraits they have made, Van Gogh in his paintings, and Merton in the portraits he allowed to be made of himself by the photographers Eugene Meatyard and John Howard Griffin. The first chapter sets out Merton's discourse on the true self, with its rejection of a false (selfish) self. Van Gogh's self-portraits are then studied as an avenue to the artist's self- awareness and how they parallel his alternative inner pilgrimage to the true self. The second chapter seeks to ascertain how one journeys towards that self by what Merton defines as 'pure intentions'. The third chapter examines how both Merton and Van Gogh find the capacity for true seeing, and the understanding and even the partaking in parables, for a parable is not only examinable, but also to be seen as a two-way mirror, something which examines us. The last chapter has as its focus the metaphor of light, which is employed by both artists; in the paintings of Van Gogh, as a visual well-spring of hope; and also in the art and writing of Merton, and indeed many artists and writers. Overall I can propose that each of these two figures, along their journey, attained what they sought to become, and that the journey was essential to their becoming true, for it required a pilgrimage.

Item Type: Thesis (MTh(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: English literature, Art history.
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2007
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-71922
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2021 10:00
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.71922

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