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.