Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Van Gogh's Women"; By Derek Fell: A Review

There are a lot of Vincent Van Gogh biographies out there. Derek Fell's 2004 effort Van Gogh's Women: His Love Affairs and Journey into Madness is one of the best because it centers on one main aspect of Vincent's life -- how he got on with women. It starts off with Vincent's relationship (or lack thereof) with his mother. He also points out that being born on the same day as his stillborn older brother -- and sharing the exact same name as the dead baby -- really messed Vincent up before he had a chance to mess himself up.

For some reason, Vincent's relationship with Paul Gauguin is also included in great detail. I wasn't entirely sure why, as Fell notes that the two bohemian artists did not have a homosexual relationship (although they shared at least one whore between them.) I also did not care about reading so much about the creepy Gauguin when I wanted to read about Vincent.

This book also pushes the theory that Dr. Paul Gachet (Vincent's last doctor) helped kill Vincent. I'm not entirely sold on that theory, but it sure is interesting to read about.

The hardback edition I borrowed from the library had many reproductions of Vincent's works and photos of Vincent's family.  Again, Gauguin intrudes into the limited space the publishers made available for illustrations. (Big sigh.)  Still, I highly recommend the book.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Van Gogh Painting At Sotheby's May Make $50 Million

Have an extra $50 million burning a hole in your pocket?  That's how much you'll need to get one of the Venus' arms of paintings, a Van Gogh looking for a buyer.  Prestigious auction house Sotheby's is estimates that Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies (1890) (also called Still Life: Red Poppies and Daisies) will go under the hammer anywhere from $30 million to $50 million (US).

The painting  officially goes on sale November 4 at Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale.  It is, unpredictably, predicted to be the sale highlight.  Museums, private owners of Van Gogh's works and the companies that insure them will be more than eager to see what the final price is as this will help them re-evaluate how much their Van Gogh's are now worth.

What's so special about this painting?  It's red flowers in a vase, right?  The background is similar to those of the infamous Sunflowers series.  This also may be one of the last paintings that Van Gogh did, according to the New York Observer.  It was painted at Auvers-sur-Oise, France, possibly in June of 1890.

Let's hope that Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies does not share the same fate as Portrait of Dr. Gachet which disappeared after being bought at a Christie's auction for a Japanese collector 1990. That painting's price was over $82 million. Very few Van Gogh paintings have ever been on the open market in America since the 1980's, notes The Financial Times.

Image is from the Van Gogh Gallery's excellent website.

EDIT November 5: The painting went for $61.8 million.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Vincent Van Gogh The Musical -- Just Say No

The passion of the artist committed to finding the sacred in the common ... the suffering of an ignored genius ... the ultimate tragedy of an artist dying on the verge of international acclaim ...  all of this is just a fraction of the complex portrait of the man, the myth, the legend -- Vincent Van Gogh. 

And soon it will coming to you -- as a musical.

WHAT?  No, sorry -- you read that right.  According to the Telegraph, Vincent will premier in Amsterdam sometime in the autumn of 2015.  Why 2015?  Because that is the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh's death.  It will be produced by a Dutchman, Albert Verlinde.  The aim of the musical is to "bring Vincent van Gogh's works to life in a non-traditional way".  Content is expected to focus on the decent into madness and the Ear Thing.
Non-traditional is right.  Amsterdam -- you have been warned.

The Don McClean pop song was bad enough (hey -- at least that was catchy if way too fanboyish).  Do we really have to suffer through a two-hour musical?  Or even just the knowledge that a musical on Van Gogh exists?  Only if it's a comedy, please. 

The rather bemused and confused Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam plans on holding a special exhibit that somehow has a tenuous connection with the musical.  The director of the museum has been quoted in the press as saying, "It's perhaps a little odd to celebrate his death."

Just when you think pop culture can't get any worse -- it does.

Friday, July 4, 2014

An Overview of Van Gogh's Relationships

Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890) painted people with remarkable sympathy but failed to get along with people in real life. He was deemed a failure by most of his family, had no lifelong friends and never married. In his entire short life, he had just one trusted confidant - his younger brother Theo. Theo was so attached to Vincent that he died a mere six months after his older brother.

Van Gogh's Family

Vincent was the oldest son of five children. He was born about one year after his mother gave birth to a still born son named Vincent. His father was a pastor, but more importantly his Uncle Vincent worked as a successful art dealer for the French firm Goupil & Cie. Vincent originally was going to follow his uncle's footsteps and sell art as opposed to creating it. He even worked in Guopil & Cie.'s London branch for two years.

Vincent did not receive any support from his large family with the sole exception of his brother Theo. Most of Vincent's letters to Theo survived and have been published. Vincent was considered bizarre and a misfit by his other family members. Vincent tried to woo his widowed cousin but she refused him. This caused a huge rift in the family that already was pushing Vincent away.

Van Gogh's Lovers

Although the legend claims that Vincent cut his ear off as a present for his favorite whore, this legend has been debunked. But Vincent did go to prostitutes. No "decent" woman would have anything to do with him. Modern doctors state that Vincent's bizarre behavior may have been the result of a combination of mental illness and a chronic ailment such as epilepsy or migraines.

Vincent moved to The Hague in 1881. In 1882, he met a pregnant prostitute, Clasina Maria Hoornik, and fell in love with her. They lived together, which caused a major scandal. The relationship was doomed from the start, but Vincent's tenderness towards his lover shows in his drawings of her, including the much loved Sorrow.

Van Gogh's Contemporaries

Most other artists would not have anything to do with Vincent, since his poverty made him have poor grooming habits and his ailments made his behavior unpredictable. He did briefly study under Anton Mauve, then a famous Dutch realistic painter. But Mauve soon tired of his scandalous student and soon would have nothing to do with him.

The only artist to attempt to collaborate with Vincent was yet another social misfit, Paul Gauguin. They briefly shared lodgings at Arles, France but often fought. Both were alcoholics and both were impoverished. Some biographers claim it was Gauguin who cut off part of Vincent's ear.

Additional References

Van Gogh.Rene Huyghe. Crown Publishers; 1967.

Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh. Irving Stone & Jean Stone, editors. Plume; 1995.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Van Gogh's Ear Regrown: WTF?

I was first hoping that this was an Internet joke, but apparently it's not: some modern German artist has claimed to have re-grown the infamous ear of Vincent Van Gogh. The Van Gogh DNA is supposedly from the back of an envelope Van Gogh was thought to have licked and from the saliva of a direct descendent of Theo Van Gogh, Lieuwe Van Gogh. It was then put into a computer program for three years and ABRACADABRA a 3-D printed image of Van Gogh's unmutilated ear was born.

Okay, I'm sure the actual process was a wee bit more complicated, but STILL, that's about what happened.

The 3-D ear was then placed in a spiffy box so that viewers can whisper their secrets into Vincent's ear -- which looks more like a creepy Jell-o mold than an ear. The piece is still not finished. It's still growing in a funky bubbly solution while it is on display in ZKM Karlsruhe Museum. In 2015, the piece is to be displayed somewhere in New York (where it may get an interesting headline in the New York Post but then be ignored.)

Anyway, the piece is called Sugarbabe (why not something that can be easily remembered, like Van Gogh's Ear? Trying to be ironic? Or just being a pain in the arse?) CNN gave this "news" the best treatment with this title "Apparently This Matters: Vincent Van Gogh's 3-D printed ear."

The artist, who's name I don't feel like mentioning, told the press that ear is alive: "Absolutely it’s alive!” she says. “What we did is create a machine to mimic the body. The whole system in which the ear lives you could say is the skin. The nutrition comes from the plasma. We have a pump, which is the heart, and an oxygen exchange like a lung.”

Wait -- WHAT? Did I miss something? Since when have ears been given personhood status?

I think even Vincent would have been fatally embarrassed by this one.

"Leaving Van Gogh"; By Carol Wallace: A Review

If you liked Lust for Life (1934) by Irving Stone, then you are going to be really disappointed with Carol Wallace's Leaving Van Gogh (2011.) Stone did the historical novel thing so much better and with far more intensity and focus than Wallace's rather sloppy word-portrait of both Vincent Van Gogh and his last therapist, Dr. Paul Gachet (yes -- the same Dr.Gachet of the infamous portraits.)

A far more interesting book would have been speculation on whatever happened to the painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890), which disappeared in 1990 after being bought by a really rich Japanese guy.

The novel is told from Dr. Gachet's point of view. Granted, Dr. Gachet is one of the more mysterious characters on the fringe of art history. He was not only a bad amateur artist and spectacular art collector, he also treated Impressionists like Renoir. He clearly made a big impression on Van Gogh, which is why he did the portrait in the way he did.

The plot is all over the place. Dr. Gachet goes into flashbacks into most inconvenient times, which really interrupts the narrative. The big revelation of the novel turns out to be no revelation at all. Dr. Gachet sees Van Gogh in rose-tinted spectacles, which really clashes with the historical portrait we have of him. YES, I know this is work of fiction, but HONESTLY!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

YouTube Video: "Simon Schama's The Power of Art: Vincent Van Gogh"

This 2006 documentary is one episode of an eight-part series where historian Simon Schama takes a look at famous painters and how they impacted art and society. There is also a book to accompany this series. This is beautifully shot with some gorgeous footage of where Van Gogh lived. I gets a bit Painted With Words at times, but is well worth the time. This is not a comprehensive documentary of his life (the whole ear thing is barely mentioned) but concentrates on how why he painted as he did.

Although I recommend this program, here are a couple of warnings:

  • There's swearing
  • Van Gogh is pronounced wrong
  • There is a disturbing scene of Vincent eating a tube of yellow paint
  • There's Simon Schama himself, who takes a little getting used to. He has a peculiar voice and a very drone-like way of speaking. However, he does have a droll sense of humor and has a great sense of why Van Gogh matters.
Vincent is played by British actor Andy Serkis (yes -- the same guy who did Gollum). I wonder what would happen if a Dutch actor was ever cast for a British documentary on Vincent. However, Serkis uses a lower class British accent, which certainly would have made a direct impact on the BBC audience. He uses a frantic energy and a steady determination which grows on you during the course of the show.

My Favorite Van Gogh Painting: Sunflowers

I've just realized that I've had this blog for over a year and have yet to write extensively about my favorite painting by Vincent Van Gogh. I will now rectify this immediately.

As this post's title suggests, my favorite Van Gogh painting is Sunflowers (Tournesols).  Ah, but which Sunflowers, you ask? Van Gogh did numerous paintings featuring these gaudy flowers in different shades, vases and sometimes with other flowers.  The one I like is the most famous version with a yellow-gold background, painted in 1888 and now hangs in the National Gallery  in London.

Why? Well, my Mom bought a cheap framed reproduction when I was a very small child.  It hung on the stairway next to the stacks of National Geographics that my family once collected (and are now long gone.) About 40 years later, after my parents' divorce, my two busted live-in relationships and God knows how many moves, it's about all that's left of my childhood.  It's still owned by my Mom.

When I was 29, I had a mental breakdown and ran away to live with a busker in England.  That didn't work out and I burned a lot of bridges back to America.  And then one day my make-shift shelter in the woods was burnt down.  The fire brigade suspected arson.  I knew someone was trying to kill me and my dog.  I never thought my Mom would take me in, but she did -- and took my dog in, too.

She set up a bedroom for me in the basement.  There, propped against a mirror, was the Sunflowers painting.  I had come home.

Below is a short news clip about two of the most famous versions from London and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam of Sunflowers being shown side by side.

What is your favorite Van Gogh painting?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Orangutan Being Called the Next Van Gogh

Let me clear. I have nothing against orangutans. I like orangutans. But I have a real hard time taking seriously anyone who compares an orangutan's paintings to a Van Gogh. That's what ABC News is saying on their website.

Rudi Valentino, the 36 year old male orangutan lives at the Houston Zoo. It must be kinda dull at the zoo, because 10 years ago, Rudi took up a new hobby -- painting. He paints on any surface he can get a hold of. Van Gogh's painting career only lasted ten years.

According to Rudi's keepers, his favorite color is pink and that he has "an artistic temperament."

Rudi's works are being auctioned off tomorrow, April 10, in order to benefit the zoo. Rudi's not the only animal artist in the auction. There are also works by an elephant, a clouded leopard and a pig. I have seen some of Rudi's work (pictured) and I have to say I'm not impressed. Sure, he still paints better than I do, but he's not quite in the Van Gogh department.

If Rudi is supposedly like Van Gogh, then his keepers need to keep him away from booze and whores is all I'm saying.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Scientists Use Van Gogh Paintings to Look at History of Climate

Vincent Van Gogh doesn't just matter to art lovers, but also to scientists. Some Greek and German scientists have looked at hundreds of paintings and photos from 1500, including Van Gogh's recently discovered Sunset at Montmajour (pictured) in order to see what the skies used to look like. Their article was published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Why bother looking at paintings? Well, they didn't have photographs (let alone color photographs) back in 1500. One subject painters seemed to love was how the sky looked like after a volcanic explosion. By comparing the paintings to color photographs of polluted skies and skies after volcanic explosions, scientists hope to get a better picture of our planet's climactic history.

This isn't the first time this group has used paintings to help figure out the history of the air. They previously published a large study in the same journal back in 2007. They also commissioned a contemporary artist to paint sunsets after a dust storm in 2010 on the island of Hydra. Paintings by JMW Turner were also used in the study.

According to the study's authors, "Because of the large number of paintings studied, we tentatively propose the conclusion that regardless of the school, red-to-green ratios from great masters can provide independent proxy AODs [Aerosol Optical Depth] that correlate with widely accepted proxies and with independent measurements."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Van Gogh, 4 Other Artists Immortalized in Food in Art Fund Competition

Let me begin by saying that I used to be homeless.  Food was a sacred issue.  To find any was rapture and to waste any was an unforgivable sin.  You could play with your food -- but only if nothing was wasted and everything was eaten before it began to rot.

So forgive me if I cannot get into the food art fad, which got a huge shot of publicity in February when the prestigious Time magazine did a feature on 5 artistic masterpieces recreated with food, including Vincent Van Gogh's Self Portrait with a Bandaged Ear turned into a vertical ploughman's lunch (pictured, left.) The frame is made up of sliced bead and French loaf, the eyes peppercorns, the coat button a pickle slice, the green bits lettuce and the bandage a smear of brie.  Somewhere there are gherkins, pickled onions and yellow cheese.

Another interesting creation was a Rice Crispie Treat splattered with icing to mimic a Jackson Pollack painting. Also there is a recreation of Damien Hurst's Skull which defies explanation, although apparently almonds played a part in it.  See even more on Art Fund's Instagram page, Facebook page or on Twitter using the #ediblemasterpieces.

These creations were done to raise money for the UK non-profit Art Fund as part of the Edible Masterpieces Project, a competition which goes in until 30 June, 2014. This uses all kinds of fundraising events to give money to UK's art galleries and museums so they will not close.  Now that I can sink my teeth into.

Image is from Slate, which got it from Art Fund. I'm not sure if the image is copyrighted. (Sorry!)

"Van Gogh: The Life" By Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith; The Review

I meant to write a review of Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith ages ago but couldn't because I still haven't finished the book.  Why haven't I?  It's over 1000 pages long in itty-bitty print.  It's the only time I was glad Vincent Van Gogh died at age 37 or who knows how long this monster would've turned out. Quite frankly, my life is too short to spend months reading just one damn book.

The Good

This is unquestionably the most thorough and best researched biography ever written of Van Gogh's entire life and legend. It also made headlines around the world back when it was first published in 2011 for it's theory that someone else shot Van Gogh instead of Van Gogh. Naifeh and Smith claim that two teenage boys that liked to bully Van Gogh accidentally shot the tormented artist. Van Gogh did not want them to get into trouble, so he told everyone that he shot himself. At that point I his life, Van Gogh was looking forward to death. It's a convincing argument, I have to admit.

The Bad

There are a couple hundred pages of notes. The notes are in even smaller print than the text or captions.  Now, granted, most people ignore the notes, but I'm one of those people who does not.  Perhaps I can blame Richard Dawkins for his very entertaining notes for that, but there you are. Hi -- my name is Rena Sherwood and I am a note reader. However, it's impossible to read the notes and match it up with the text because there are no note numbers in the text.  You have to read the book and then the notes or keep flipping to the chapter notes after reading a chapter.  No thanks.

The Downright Ugly

If Van Gogh is your hero, get ready to have your illusions completely shattered. Van Gogh may have been an artistic genius, but he had a boatload of problems. He would self-sabotage himself so much so that you can start predicting how he will lose friends and make powerful enemies before it happens. Van Gogh's paranoia and intensity makes his letters hard to interpret. He would constantly mention a great new friend in one letter and then never mention that person again, except to trash talk him or her. In some ways, you wish you could go back in time just to smack Van Gogh across the face and yell, "SNAP OUT OF IT!"

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Little Seen Van Gogh Painting Fetches 16.9 Million Pounds at Auction

A Sotheby's auction in early February reached a record amount in part due to a Van Gogh painting which fetched 16.9 million pounds, reports Bloomberg.  The Van Gogh was the second most expensive painting of the London auction, which raked in a grand total of 169.5 million pounds (US $266.8 million.)

The first most expensive painting of the evening was "Boulevard Montmartre" by Camille Pissarro.  It was estimated to go at 10 million pounds but when the hammer fell the price was 19 million pounds.  About 60% of the auction pieces went for prices higher than Sotheby's estimate, which indicates that the world art market is coming back strong.

Van Gogh's "The Man Is At Sea (L’Homme Est en Mer)" was estimated to bring in a mere 8 million pounds.  This is the canvas' second time at Sotheby's.  In 1989, it was sold in the New York branch of Sotheby's for a piddling $7.15 million. Things get a little muddied as to the painting's history after 1989. According to Sotheby's, it was bought by an anonymous art consigner in 1993 and sold to Holocaust survivor and art dealer Jan Krugier.  Krugier died in 2008 but his extensive art collection did not go on sale until this year.

Van Gogh painted the woman and baby at home waiting for Daddy in front of the hearth while he was an inmate at the asylum in Saint-Remy, France in 1889, about a year before the artist's death.  Van Gogh's paintings were considered worthless in his lifetime.  The first owner of the painting was Dr. Paul Gachet, Vincent's final therapist and one of his models.  It has had several wealthy owners after the good doctor's family sold the painting in the early 1900s.  It was last exhibited publicly in Paris in 1905.

Painting Focus: "Pieta (After Delacroix)"; By Van Gogh, 1889

What is a Pieta? It's an artistic scene depicting the Virgin Mary sorrowfully receiving the body of her son, the crucified Jesus. It's a subject popular in Western civilization in the last two thousand years, even after the Catholic Church stopped bankrolling many major artists. One of the most famous Pietas in modern history is done by the enigmatic Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890).

Van Gogh could rarely afford models, so he often copied existing artwork in order to paint. His Pieta is a copy of a lithograph he had done by Nanteuil. This lithograph was a copy of a Pieta done by acclaimed French Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix (1798 - 1863.) This is not a faithful copy but Delacroix's painting done in Van Gogh's vibrant, Impressionist style.


Although there are similarities in figure shapes, positioning and theme, there are many differences between the original Delacroix and Van Gogh's version. Delacroix renders a typical religious painting, where the central characters are unmistakably more than human. Jesus seems to hold himself up despite being dead while Mary's blue dress and red cloak flow dramatically. The way Mary's clothes flow suggests that a strong wind is blowing, but nothing else in the painting, such as Jesus' hair, moves.
Van Gogh's figures are much more human. Both Mary and Jesus have the same skin coloration. Van Gogh put his paint on the canvas in very heavy layers. Coupled with brighter colors and a lack of red, the figures seem slightly squiggly. This slightly distorted image may have been inspired by visual disturbances Van Gogh is thought to have experienced. Whether that cause was a seizure disorder or migraine aura is unknown.

Accidental Art

Van Gogh decided to try his hand at Delacroix's Pieta after his lithograph became damaged. It fell into a patch of bright oil paint that Van Gogh could not remove. This caused a huge bright round patch near Mary's head. This damaged copy was kept by the Van Gogh family and still exists.

This was painted in 1889, when the artist had less than one year to live. This year was also his most productive and included some of his most beloved works. After years of struggling to achieve his own painting style which was considered ugly at the time, Van Gogh had finally mastered it.

Additional Resources

Van Gogh. Rene Huyghe. Crown Publishers; 1967.

Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh. Irving Stone & Jean Stone, editors. Plume; 1995.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Painting Focus: Vase with Gladioli and China Asters, 1886

Today, a painting by Vincent Van Gogh is worth millions of dollars. But when Van Gogh lived, he could barely afford to eat and rarely could afford to hire models. Although he wrote often to his brother Theo about his wish to paint people, he rarely was able to. So Van Gogh was forced to improvise by painting whatever objects were available, including a simple vase filled with gladioli flowers.

Van Gogh painted many varieties of flowers. His best known flower works are his bright series of sunflower paintings. Van Gogh's "Vase with Gladiloi" (1886) is an often overlooked masterpiece in interpreting still life to canvas. Van Gogh did several pieces including gladioli flowers in the summer of 1886, but this is arguably the best in the series. It now hangs in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The painting is also called "Vase with Gladioli and Chinese Asters", F248a and several others that I'm sure I forgot to mention here.

Van Gogh's Style

Van Gogh is an artist that's either loved or hated. Van Gogh did receive some art instruction, but mostly was a self-taught artist. Critics point out his blocky, borderline cartoonish figures, including those of flowers. Van Gogh used a swirling quality with his colors, laying them sometimes directly next to each other instead of blending them in. "Vase with Gladioli" shows how thickly he laid the expensive oil paints onto his canvass.
Because Van Gogh used paint in such thick layers, we are able to see how long his brushstrokes were and sometimes the actual tiny lines of the brush itself. This is especially noticeable in the vase itself and sprig of gladioli laying nest to the vase. When viewed at a slight distance of a few feet, the colors and brushstrokes do blend to make a solid picture. But seeing the actual brushstrokes gives a personal touch, as if Van Gogh is not afraid for us to see how he works. This makes his work approachable because of this human touch.

Van Gogh's Palette

Most of Van Gogh's flower paintings are done with one predominating color or colors that closely resemble each other. His sunflower series are in mostly bright earth tones, for example. "Vase with Gladioli" is different in that there are a variety of colors used. The background and most of the vase is dark, while the flowers themselves are bright green, yellow, red and white. The red is quite dark, which helps to balance the dark and light colors.

The vase itself is quite interesting, although it is dominated by the gladioli. It may have been an old tin can that perhaps at one time held Van Gogh's brushes. It is smeared with odd splotches of colors, suggesting that Van Gogh may have used it as a substitute palette at one point.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Pair of Van Gogh's Sunfllowers Shown Together in London

Going to be in London?  You lucky dogs.  You'll get an opportunity to see a sight which was last viewed 65 years ago -- when two versions of Vincent Van Gogh's infamous sunflower paintings were hung side by side.  The display will last for three months only until April.  Remember -- admission to The National Gallery is free.  Compare that to the cost of seeing a Van Gogh in an American museum, where charges rom $25 to $35 per person are not uncommon.

One version is owned by the National Gallery in London.  It was bought in 1924 from the Van Gogh family for a whopping 24 million pounds sterling.  The other is owed by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  They are now displayed in Room 46 of the National Gallery.

There are several versions of Van Gogh's sunflower paintings.  My personal favorite is the one I have actually travelled to see at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Sadly, one version was destroyed during World War II, although photos of it apparently still exist.  Because of their value, the chances of all existing versions being brought together in one museum are next to impossible.  The sunflowers in Philly, for example, is one of the cash cows for that museum and so it could never part with it.

Vincent once wrote that his sunflowers were really self-portraits.  Perhaps he was in a more positive frame of mind when he wrote that.  In his career, Vincent painted sunflowers in all their stages from seeds to dried dead flowers.  When Paul Gauguin painted his portrait of Vincent, he chose one of Vincent painting sunflowers.  Vincent reportedly said of it, "It is a portrait of me, but a portrait of me gone mad."

Painting Focus: Siesta or Noon: Rest from Work (1890)

Although best known for his feverishly colored landscapes, Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) preferred to paint people. Paying for models was a challenge to the impoverished painter, as he would constantly complain in letters to his only lifelong friend, his brother Theo. One painting featuring not just one but two people is “The Siesta”, a large oil painting based on Jean-Francois Millet’s “La Sieste.”

Van Gogh did not formally name the painting, so it is listed in art books and art websites under different names such as “Noon: Rest From Work” and “Noon Rest.” The painting now resides at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Considered worthless when it was first painted, it is now priceless.

Painting Particulars
In the painting, two peasants nap against a haystack during the hottest part of the day. The woman is lying on her side, her head curved down so her features are completely hidden. The man is lying on his back, his hands behind his head. His hat covers his face. The worker's shoes are off, resting next to a pair of sickles. Because the faces are hidden, the peasants could represent anyone.
"The Siesta" was completed in January 1890, about 11 months before the painter's tragic death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Van Gogh copied the Millet painting because of his lack of money for models while he was a patient at the St. Remy de Provence asylum in France. Van Gogh would produce 142 paintings in this time as he mastered his unique and distinctive style.

Not Exactly a Copy

Van Gogh would copy several of Millet's works while staying at St. Remy. Millet was one of Van Gogh's favorite artists. But instead of slavishly copying Millet stroke for stroke or even color for color, Van Gogh created fresh new works of art.

Millet's original is darker than Van Gogh's. Colors smoothly blend into each other. The brightest spots are within a shaft of light shining down on the napping pair of peasants napping against a hay pile. The livestock grazing in the background are difficult to see. In Van Gogh's work, the entire painting is bathed in the light peculiar to Southern France. The draught animal in the back is bright pinto in color. The sky, the wheat pile, the animal and the peasants are all filled with swirls of color, making them appear made of the same stuff.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Looking at the Desk of Van Gogh's Great-Great Grandnephew

Imagine being named after one of the most famous artists in the  world.  No, really -- imagine it.  You are saddled with a name that you can never live up to in no way, shape or form.

Frightening, isn't it?

This is the everyday dilemma for Vincent Willem Van  Gogh, the great-great grandnephew of the artist (and subject of this blog) Vincent Willem Van Gogh (1853 - 1890).  It was also the dilemma of Great-Great Granduncle Vincent, who was named for his stillborn older brother (who also happened to be born on the same day Vincent was.) 

The current Vincent Willem Van Gogh (pictured above with two other Van Goghs) works on the board for the Van Gogh Museum  in  Amsterdam, founded by the current Vincent's grandfather named (you guessed it) Vincent Willem Van Gogh.  In an interview in July of 2013 when he visited Japan for an art opening featuring 3D works of Van Gogh masterpieces, he said:

“It never fails to touch me when I see how much the work and life of Vincent van Gogh mean to people all over the world."

He also has quite a desk.  He gave a semi-detailed interview to Haute about the items you can find on them. Take a look at it and the honkin' big Van Gogh art book.  The desk itself (perhaps also named Vincent Willem Van Gogh -- hey, I've seen crazier things in my life) looks like it came from Ikea.