Loving Vincent

 

“What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person – somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

I am not an art expert, neither have I studied it. Honestly you do not need to be one to appreciate a good piece of art. My interest and admiration for art can be attributed to my Mom. She was my first and only art teacher. My childhood days involved a lot of  painting and artwork. It took a backseat during high school days and completely vanished during college days.

I did not touch a paint brush for decades but that did not stop me from admiring great pieces of art. It was during those paintingfree days when I accidentally stumbled upon a documentary on famous paintings around the world. It featured a number of famous paintings by artists around the world. There was one that struck me most – a painting of Sunflowers in a Vase. The painter was Vincent Van Gogh. The use of bright colours and the contrast made me fall in love with it. What was a little unusual was the sign of the painter? “Vincent” written on the vase. Many years later I read somewhere  that while working as an art dealer in England and France the Dutch painter realized that it was difficult for foreigners to pronounce his family name. “What a considerate fellow?”

I came to know about his paintings, style, life, family and death. Thanks to internet. It makes me sad, when I think about him. At the age of 37, he shot himself and died. At the same time I am filled with admiration that in just eight years he painted around 800 art works.

Van Gogh was a loner. Only person he was close to was his brother, Theo Van Gogh. While exploring his life as a painter at different places, including Paris, and Arles, he would write him letters almost every night. Those letters have become some of the prized possession of art world. They give an insight into the life and trauma of the Dutchman. Theo was also the one who supported him and provided all his art supplies. The bonding between the two was so strong that Theo could not cope up with Vincent’s death and died just six months later.

By the time of his death, Van Gogh was slowly being noticed by the art world, but only one of his paintings was sold. Theo was survived by his wife Johanna van Gogh-Bonger and a son. Johanna took the responsibility of introducing Van Gogh’s paintings to the world. She also published the letters between the two brothers.

Throughout his life Van Gogh suffered due to various reasons. He failed at various jobs, had breakdowns and underwent treatment; was considered a madman who once cut his own ear; a textbook case of misunderstood artist. Perhaps time was not ready for him and his works.

Van Gogh painted numerous series of paintings – Potraits, Self-Potraits, Flowers, Cypresses, Orchards and Wheat Fields. Some of his notable paintings are are Sorrow (1882), The Potato Eaters (1885), Sunflowers (1887), Bedroom in Arles (1888), The Starry Night (1889), Potrait of Dr Gachet (1890), Wheatfield with Crows (1890).

There are numerous books, documentary features and pages on internet available on the life and works of Van Gogh. In October 2017 an experimental biographical drama based on his life was released. It is first fully painted animated film. Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh, created by a team of 125 painters. Each scene in the film is a reflection of Van Gogh’s paintings, whether it be Starry Night, Wheat field of Crows, self portraits, portraits, or Sunflowers. Watching this film was an overwhelming experience.

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Another wonderful experience for me was visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. A decade back I never thought that I would see Van Gogh’s Sunflower painting in person. When I visited Amsterdam in 2017, I was high over heels. The prospect of viewing Van Gogh’s masterpieces was like a dream come true. Van Gogh museum is located in the heart of Amsterdam. A walk through its galleries provides one of the best insights into the life and works of the dutch artist. Each showcased painting tells a story. Stories about his inspirations, life in Paris, his brother, love, friendship, madness, and his admiration of beautiful subjects. It also features works by his contemporary artists like Monet, Mane, Signac and Pissarro.

The museum has majority of Van Gogh works but not all the notable ones. There are few in Rijksmuseum, located a few blocks away from the Van Gogh museum. The museum is home to one of the richest collection of art and artefacts from around the world. The Art Institute of Chicago too has few of his notable works. Back home in Ontario, Art Gallery of Ontario too has some of his paintigs. Visiting these art galleries have been a part of my Van Gogh spree.

(P. S. This is a late post. It was written almost 2 years back. The post does not include paintings from Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam as photography was not allowed inside.) 

 

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