Vincent Van Gogh grew curious towards butterflies and moths between 1889 and 1890. He liked the metaphorical representation of human transformation through the Metamorphosis of insects, and especially Moths and Butterflies. When he was drawing such transforming creatures, he found this beautiful Moth. He described this moth as ‘Death’s Head Moth’ to his brother in his letter. Also in this letter, Van Gogh said he wouldn’t like to draw it because to draw it, he has to kill such a beautiful creature. It did take him a lot of thinking, but in the end he drew this Great Peacock Moth and added to the collection of his Butterfly Series. The thing that made Van Gogh curious was the shape this Moth carried on its back. It looks like a human skull. And the colors of it; dark greens and grays; it looked like death to Van Gogh.
The reason behind his interest in butterflies, as we stated earlier was his metaphorical interpretation towards human transformation. Van Gogh believed that humans have the capacity to transform; not physically, but mentally. He wanted to symbolize this characteristic of transformation by pressing on to the concept of Butterfly and Moth metamorphosis. He used his butterfly series to symbolize hope and transformation in humans. He wondered about the possibilities present in the universe when he started drawing butterflies. He used to think about the prostitutes in brothels that he used to meet when he thinks of metamorphosis. He talked about hope referring to prostitutes and butterflies. “Like the caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly, imagining the various possibilities in the world, what may these prostitutes become in the future?” he wrote in a letter to his friend.
Crawling on the green leaves, I saw the kids joyously jumping and playing with the butterflies. Looking at all the colorful cousins of mine, I decided to be the one with most of the colors on me. Every time I chew on the leaf, My only thought is to progress. To progress enough, For me to fly high, with the wings of my own. Crawling inch by inch and eating all the leaf, I shed my skin in the hope of gaining new. Each time I shed my skin, I think the time has come. But each time a new skin comes, The more disappointed I become. The pressure on me is un-imaginable. The stress to be the best. Have no thoughts of becoming something else, Have no plans of what to do next either. But my goal was just to thrive. To flap my wings and make people smile. Saw my friends shedding their final skin. Saw them build a nest, Saw them break it out, And saw them fly away. Each day passes, I become more sad. Is this my final form? Can I not transform? But thinking about it made me hate, Hate the thought of not transforming. Swallowing the grudge that I carry, I started despising the colorful winged creatures. Began to wonder my unique nature, Began to observe my difference. By now there is no confusion, It is evident that I am different from those who crawled with me. Somewhere inside, Even when I don’t want to accept, I know that I am not one of them, That I can never be a butterfly. Days have passed, And the pressure increased too. Shed my final skin, Built my own shell. Curious were the kids, To see what color that I would turn. But I don’t wonder anymore, That I already know that I’m different. Days passed and changes began. I don’t like myself anymore. The darkness sucked me in, Into a big void. And soon it became me, the void. I tore the shell and came out. Shocked were the kids but I don’t care. I heard a cry instead of a laugh. My reflections didn’t look colorful. But I knew it long back, That I will turn up gray. I don't want to cry, Because not my mistake. Being a butterfly, Would be a mistake. For I was never one with those color winged things, I have always been the Great Gray Moth! Mistake was mine, To dream of being them. But no matter what you think I’m, This is my Metamorphosis.
This is my tribute to the thought of Metamorphosis of Van Gogh. For him it was hope, and for me it is change. Change that you have when you finally knew yourself; the true yourself!