Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Van Gogh vs. Dylan

Two figures who appear frequently here are Vincent Van Gogh and Bob Dylan. Nevertheless they rarely appear together. I don't think they know each other, though they may have met once or twice at one of those parties one ends up at that are just wall to wall celebrities. Bumming around town one hardly even sees a single celebrity, but then one pops ones head in at some high roller's soiree and bam, it's all "I never thought I'd see Einstein chatting with Boyz II Men and Gummo, the fifth Marx Brother." But those parties aren't really the kind of place where one gets to know someone, even if one might want to.

But because I never talk about Dylan and Van Gogh together we never get a chance to discuss the issue that invariably leaps to mind every time I bring up either of them, namely:

Who Was the Greater Artist, Bob Dylan or Vincent Van Gogh
We go head to head in all the vital categories and accord a definitive winner!

1. Image

Van Gogh: Unstable, Passionate, troubled, and in love with life.

Dylan: Mercurial, hard to pin down, iconoclastic, cool, and seedy.

The edge goes to Dylan here because of the ear slicing incident.

2. Popularity

Van Gogh:  Labored in unwanted obscurity through life. Pretty much owned the "most favorite artist ever" charts through the 1980's and 90's.

Dylan: Feverishly respected by his peers and ever sporting a large, fiercely devoted fan base, he nevertheless has tended to be outcharted by lesser talents.

The edge to Van Gogh as no one ever complains about his voice.

3. Ancillary Products

Van Gogh: Cards, key chains, mugs, posters, movies, umbrellas, and really anything you can slap an image on.

Dylan: Chevrolets, women's underwear, harmonicas.

The edge to Van Gogh. Neither of them went the super classy route, but Van Gogh gets credit for being dead during it.

4. Style.

Van Gogh: Straw hat, "Arty Farmhand", scowl.

Dylan: Black hat, "Hobo Chic", scowl.

The edge to Dylan. Sometimes it seems like Van Gogh doesn't care.

5. Financial Value of Work

Van Gogh: Now that we've decided to give all the money in the world to a couple thousand people, there's not much left that's so rare and valuable that they have to fight over it. Van Gogh paintings fit into that tiny grouping.

Dylan: Works hard and can sell out your mid-sized arenas, but until he's willing to do a more fan friendly Vegas style performance he won't land many of those juicy corporate shows.

The edge to Van Gogh. Someone should do the decent thing and dig him up and put him in a solid gold casket.

6. Range of Talents

Van Gogh: Besides being as great a painter as anyone ever, he was also as good at drawing as anyone else ever. He wrote nice letters. He could also preach.

Dylan: In addition to all the music stuff, he paints, writes excellent quality non fiction, and is not a bad actor. He's done a bit of film making and no small amount of political activism, though he might not like it if you called it that. He is also a good lay historian of American Music.

The edge to Dylan, despite the fact that he has done no notable blogging.


Popularity, Ancillary Products, and Financial Value of Work to Van Gogh for a score of three.

Image, Style, and Range of Talents to Dylan for a score of three.

Curses, it's a tie!

Only a nationwide vote can settle this now.


  1. Please put my vote in for Van Gogh. A long time ago, with his consent, I was allowed to go on a date with his daughter. Though things never worked out for us, we had a nice time and he was a gentleman.

    1. Woho! Do you hear that everyone! Van Gogh is now holding a narrow lead in the voting as the early returns start coming in.

      Did he do your portrait?

  2. March is so Madness. My pick is with Van.

    1. Well, Van Gogh is just killing it here! It is nearly impossible to see how Dylan can ever recover from a deficit as massive as this. Actually, it makes me wonder if Dylan is not getting the votes out of a sense of doom and pointlessness, and if an enormous early lead hadn't opened up so precipitously it might be more of a contest.

      Well, I won't close the voting until everyone on the planet has had their say, so there's still time.

    2. Ah, the dark horse candidate! So someone here thinks we should listen to the lion?

  3. Dylan; because I like his art just as much as VG's and can't think of any VG songs offhand.

    1. Starry, starry night
      Paint your palette blue and gray
      Look out on a summer's day
      With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

      I'm pretty sure Van Gogh wrote that. No? Anyway, I suppose it's not exactly Dylanesque in quality, more at the level of say, a Don Mclean.


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