Most of us, at one time or another, have called someone a 'genius.' The connotation is usually quite positive. It brings to mind images of Plato, Maria Curie, and Blaise Pascal. All of these people seemed to possess genius according to the dictionary definition: someone with extraordinary intellectual ability, originality and creative power, someone excelling in a strong natural talent (Dictionary.com, pars. 1). However, the dictionary has too many conflicting variations on the definition to be of any serious help. Consider Vincent van Gogh. He has long been considered a genius with incredible talent. However, would one still consider him a genius if one knew that he was a terrible learner, and had spent years working in first-class art galleries before he even began to seriously take up painting? Keep in mind, he was not painting simply for self-satisfaction; he desperately wanted a serious career and to make a living from his art.
But, even with his gallery experience, intense desire, and the fact that his brother was an art dealer, he was still completely incompetent at selling his work. He focused on portraits, a booming business at that time, hoping that someone would want to pay for a likeness painted by van Gogh. However, there were no takers - even though he was charging such a meager amount that he could not have afforded to live solely off of it. At that time, no one would pay any attention to even the best of his works.
Considering the previous information, would one still consider van Gogh a genius? According to the dictionary, yes, someone with a talent ahead of their time should be enough to make them a genius. It is surprising then, that van Gogh's peers did not in fact consider him to be a...