Deceptively joyous, their works make one feel as if the creator has stared at the sun too long without seeing the fingerprint of god on it. They take radical ways to express a view of the world that is intense and yet accessible on the surface. Influential as they have been, they remain isolated iconoclasts in their paeans.
Their works are accessible only in their apparent joyousness. Van Gogh is repeated on shirts and posters because people find his work pleasant. Nietzsche becomes the easy catch phrase for the undergrad searching for a strident, carefree tone. This view confuses the bright veneer of a conclusion with the strenuous wrestling that went into its making. Within Nietzsche words lies the horror that is in the root of the oldest fairy tales, and Van Gogh paints as one who must paint the flatness of life in the purest pigments and thickest layers because the world enters his consciousness with the cunning of the light that finds the hungover man and makes him wince. Such heightened feeling is not always pleasant, even when it has been transformed into the aesthetic object.
It is a mistake to view these two artists as unrelated raving lunatics. I would venture rather that they are raving artists depict the intensity of life head on and struggle in their valuation thereof. If their similarities do not depict the same temperament exactly, they do the same view of a world as one to reckoned with, in all its glory. A glory that became overwhelming.