Thursday, 12 November 2009

Vincent van Gogh

Yesterday, 11th November, I visited the exhibition of van Gogh letters and "accompanying" paintings at the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.

The first photo shows the front facade of the museum and the second one shows the crane that juts out at the top of the first photo - or one like it!  The whole of the Museumplein was  one big building site. The second photo is of the Rijksmuseum, which was almost completely shrouded in scaffolding. I didn't go there this time because about 700 kids got there before me and I couldn't face the noise and bustle after the serenity of the van Gogh exhibition. I really don't know how to start to describe my impressions. I was, as always, moved by the simplicity, the humility and the sheer industry of a painter who moved from religious to artistic fervour and in the space of only a decade, which is all the time he had before intense psychological problems drove him to suicide, amassed several lifetimes of experience and artistic growth, the like of which would be hard to find anywhere. When van Gogh started on his lonely journey to becoming an artist, he didn't even know if he had any talent to speak of. He had followed his father's footsteps and become a preacher, but that was not his destiny, so he set out to find it, supported by his brother Theo, who only outlived him by 6 months, as it transpired. He bombarded everyone he knew with letters. He would have had a whale of a time with e-mails. Many of his letters to Theo were born of  the need for financial support, so it was natural for him to give a blow by blow account of his progress, including sketches of his works in progress or ideas for new paintings (some of these sketches either did not lead to paintings or the paintings have been lost). But he wrote on many other topics and, having got to Paris in the early 1880s, took to writing in French, which, he said, suited him better. He was a gifted linguist and a systematic autodidact in his chosen passion! He explored perspective, colour and design intensively. He copied artworks he admired and collected and was inspired by Japanese prints, which he loved for their economy and clarity.  I could go on.....
Here's the link: exhibition

After two free days I must now get back to work on my own exhibition. I'm starting to panic......

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