van Gogh ...
... and his sad life
Quotes of the week
“...and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh
“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke”
― Vincent van Gogh
We are back home for a few days. We left Amsterdam last Friday, made a night stopover at the harbour of Gottorp, and continues to Römö island on the west coast of Jutland. Relaxed two days at a camp close to the beach. The beach is huge and famous for the fact that you can actually drive on it. It is not allowed to camp, but you can enjoy a day on the beach.
The Sad Life of Vincent van Gogh
Last time we visited Amsterdam we got no tickets to the Van Gogh museum. Today you have to order a ticket on-line to be sure to come in. I thought we would walk through in about an hour and half, but it took us four hours to see everything.
It is a huge museum, and Van Gogh (1853-1890) was a very productive, Dutch painter. Although it did not seem like it during his life time, he became one of the most famous and influential painters in Western art history. During only ten years he created 2,100 works of art, including 860 oil paintings. Most of them from the last two years of his life.
His art includes landscapes, still lives, portraits and self-portraits. The permanent exhibition starts with the self-portraits which are very interesting. Being painted from more or less the same angle, they are still different depending on when they were painted. It is not often you get such a lot of self-portraits from a painter, so you really know what he looked liked, in all his different moods.
Van Gogh has not been one of my favourite painters, but I must admit that this exhibition changed all that. I remembered mostly his brushwork which is often visible in his painting. But, when you look at the variety of his art, you can only be impressed. I personally liked very much his village, and nature paintings, with daring blue and green colours.
I think I read somewhere that he never sold a painting during his life time. He did give away paintings though. Most of his life he was supported by his younger brother Theo, who was an art dealer. Van Gogh did try other works until he decided he wanted to be a painter. He suffered his whole life from severe depressions and mental instability, considered as a mad-man by people who met him. I guess you come close to what is called the 'mad genius’ with Van Gogh. His life was interrupted with stays at mental institutions, but in-between, and during his stays, he painted frantically. He neglected his physical health with bad eating habits and a lot of drinking which did not improve his overall health.
The creative time in Arles
In 1888 he arrived in Arles, in the south of France, which turned out to be his most productive years. He rented a house in the village, sort of settled down and also made friends there. From this time we find a lot of portraits of local people, paintings of houses, gardens and the nature around the village. This is where he painted his famous sunflowers, but also other flowers which are as beautiful. He wanted to paint life as it was, not an illusion of it. His idea of creating a group of fellow artist fell out. In the end, only Paul Gaugin came to stay with him, which had devastating consequences.
Van Gogh was not an easy person to live with. Even the time spent with his loving brother Theo in Paris some years earlier, came to an end, since Theo could not stand the co-habitation. After a couple of months together, both Gaugin and Van Gogh had reached their limits. In Van Gogh’s case it ended when he took a razor and cut off part of his ear. He took the ear in a handkerchief, walked over to the local brothel and gave it to one of the girls and left. The police was called and when visiting the artist in his home, he was in a bad condition and had to go into a hospital. After a while he discharged himself and moved to Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris. He came under the care of a homeopathic doctor, which he also painted. Everything, and everyone around him ended up in his paintings. However, his depression took hold of him and in the end of July 1890, he shot himself with a revolver, dying from his injuries two days later.
Although he was admired by fellow artists at the time, it was not until the early 20th century that his fame started to grow. Today his mental health would probably had been managed with medication, but at the time there was nothing available. His life was sad, and for sure, difficult for him. I do hope that he got some joy out of his paintings. Today, his works are among the most expensive paintings ever being sold. With his own museum in Amsterdam, finally, his legacy has been honoured.
Van Gogh in Auvers. His Final Months
This is the name of a temporary exhibition in collaboration with Musée d’Orsay. A fascinating insight into his final months, providing some of his best paintings. He lived here from 20 May until his death on 29 July (1890), and often created more than one painting a day. Some of my favourite paintings were found here. It goes on until 3 September 2023, and well worth a visit.
Van Gogh’s Ear by Bernadette Murphy
I bough this book from the museum shop. The author, living in the area of Arles, became interested in what really happened when he cut off his ear. There were contradicting evidence. Did he cut off the whole ear, or just part of it? From the back cover:
“In Van Gogh’s Ear, Bernadette Murphy reveals the truth. She takes us on an extraordinary journey from major museums to forgotten archives, vividly reconstruction Van Goth’s world. We meet police inspectors and café patrons, prostitutes and madams, his beloved brother Theo and fellow painter Paul Gaugain.
Why did Van Gogh commit such a brutal act? Who was the mysterious ‘Rachel’ to whom he presented his macabre gift? Did he really remove his entire ear? Murphy answers these important questions with her groundbreaking discoveries, offering a stunning portrait of an artist edging towards madness in his pursuit of excellence.”
I am reading the book and it is really interesting. The author talks about her research and discoveries in every other chapter, and gives us the life of Van Gogh in the other chapters. There will be a review of it on my blog, once I have finished it.
That is all for this week. I am still digesting the visit, because it made such a great impact on me. The paintings and the life story.