Monday, September 30, 2013

Painting Focus: Portrait of Patience Escalier (1888)

One of Vincent Van Gogh's best-loved portraits is that of an old gardener named Patience Escalier.  There are at least three versions (one drawing and two paintings) but the image on the left is the best known version.

In the summer of 1888, struggling artist Vincent Van Gogh dreamt of starting an artist’s colony where he lived in Arles, France. He’d managed to persuade one artist, Paul Gauguin, to join him. However, Gauguin had yet to arrive. In order to help entice artists to the area, Van Gogh painted many portraits of the inspiring local people he came across. Because of his poverty and strange ways, it was very difficult for him to get a hold of models...

Please read the rest of my article at Helium.  Thanks!
(Link has now been fixed.)

Other paintings in my Painting Focus series include:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Van Gogh Painting Discovered (Sorta)

Earlier this month, art experts from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam announced that a painting stored in an attic for 80 years is a genuine Van Gogh.  80 years ago, a Norwegian collector bought it thinking that it was genuine and was bitterly disappointed when it was declared a fake.  When it was bought a few years ago by an anonymous family, they had the painting reassessed.  They waited two years for a final report.

Why is it now considered genuine?  Because researchers unearthed two newspaper articles that article mentioned this painting, "Sunset at Montmajour"   The first article was a review of an Amsterdam art exhibit from 1892.  The second was a review from an art exhibit in the Netherlands in 1901.  It was then that the painting disappeared.

Another reason is that we can do something that we couldn't do 80 years ago -- we can chemically analyze pigments from one painting to see if it matches another.  Pigments from "Sunset at Montmajour" were a match to many other known Van Gogh paintings at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  Experts can also X-ray the canvas to see if it matched other Van Gogh canvases.

The painting is not a masterpiece by a long stretch.  When I first saw it, I promptly forgot what it looked like ten minutes later.  That may be more of a criticism of my memory than this particular Van Gogh painting, but even the art critic of the Guardian was not impressed, who wrote that "even great artists have bad days." (Owie.)

Some Doctor Who fans love it because the buildings in the top left corner look remarkably like the good Doctor's TARDIS.

There are numerous artworks by Van Gogh that are missing.  There are also artworks mentioned in his letters that do not seem to match the works known to exist or has existed.  "Sunset at Montmajour" was such a painting.  According to a letter from Van Gogh to his long-suffering brother Theo, he painted this on July 4, 1888.

Monday, September 16, 2013

YouTube Video: Vincent's Final Moments

The most famous mentally ill artist in history was arguably Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890.) At the age of 37, Vincent staggered into the hotel he was staying over a cafĂ© with a bullet wound in his abdomen. He was examined by a doctor.  The bullet could not  be removed without killing Vincent.  He lingered for two days and died. He claimed he harmed himself and urged no one other than himself to be blamed for his death.  It is possible that he was shot by a teenaged boy, but Vincent apparently wanted to die anyway.

Although the historical details in this very short independent film are debatable, I'm not highlighting it here for it's accuracy.  It is a very good portrayal of someone who has decided to die.  If you or someone you know has trouble understanding why anyone would want to kill themselves or want to die while relatively young, watch this.  It gives a good view of why suicide can seem like a perfect solution and why preventing suicide can be so difficult.

(Because of a technical problem in Blogger, I cannot place the YouTube video directly into this blog post. Sorry!)

Some more videos on YouTube about Vincent Van Gogh include:

New Van Gogh Movie in the Works

As Sherlock Holmes once said in A Study in Scarlet, "There's nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before." 

Another bio-pic of Vincent Van Gogh is currently in the works, according to The Hollywood Reporter.  Filming is set to begin in 2014 with a tentative release date of 2015.  Rutger Hauer (best known for playing a homicidal replicant in Blade Runner) has reportedly signed on as executive producer.  The tentative title is Vincent.  It is planned to be an English-language film.  It's planned to be shot in several European locations including France, the Netherlands and England.

Despite a proliferation of stage shows, documentaries (like the one pictured) and telemovies, there have been few English language films to hit the screen.  The last I can think of is Vincent and Theo (1990) directed by Robert Altman.  That movie focused on the last five years or so of his life, while this movie is apparently going to cover Vincent's entire life.

The movie is to tie in with the 125th anniversary of Vincent's tragic death in 1890.  So far, an estimated five years has gone into researching the movie.

Now that we've read the plans for the movie, let's see what the final result turns out to be.

Our Vincent would have loved that his life generated so many movies.  He was so constantly viewed as a failure that anyone highlighting his life would have boggled his mind (but in a good way.)  Then again, motion pictures as we know them -- even silent films -- first appeared after Vincent's death.  The only "films" were on phenakistoscope discs that Vincent probably never got to see because that would have cost money.