Every morning this week I have found myself in very familiar surroundings. I am back at the Glassell School of Art. Sitting in the auditorium listening to Dr. Anna Tahinci talk about art while she shares a PowerPoint presentation.
The subject this time is the current exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston called Vincent Van Gogh: His Life in Art. I have strolled through the exhibition twice so far, but I knew I wanted to get more in depth with the subject.
Vincent Van Gogh, the person and the artist, has fascinated me for years. I remember the song, Vincent (Starry, starry night) by Don McLean that was popular back in 1971 (Yes, I am old enough to remember this. I was in Junior High School which was just the right time to sit in my room, playing records, and feeling dramatically impassioned in a way only possible for an impressionable teenager.)
I am now learning about the journey that Vincent took through his life and how that was reflected in his art. He started out learning about lines and drawing. Then when he started painting many of his works were similarly monochrome.
Gradually, working with color theory, Vincent’s paintings became more and more colorful. He dabbed some red next to a green background that stands out and continues to communicate to the viewer to this day. He painted a great deal with yellow. He even painted yellow on yellow which is no small trick. In several pictures he showed us his pipe and tobacco, and his hat. He even showed us a letter from his brother Theo. It is as if these still life paintings are a variation of the self portraits he also left for us. We can see what he thought of as important and how he saw himself.
Quite paradoxically, the brighter and more vivid the colors became in his paintings; the more Vincent struggled. It was while he was living in the now famous yellow house that he decorated with bright yellows, blues and oranges. This was the spot where he also quarreled with friends and cut off part of his ear. Still he showed us everything he had inside him by painting a self portrait while his ear was still wrapped in bandages.
Realism, Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Impasto, and Pointillism are just a few words used to describe Vincent’s work. He only spent the last 10 years of his life as a painter, yet he completed approximately 2100 artworks. He was most prolific during the last two years of his life. He had so much to share and to show us in such a small amount of time.
As Don McLean sang in 1971:
Now I understand, what you tried to say to me, and how you suffered for your sanity, and how you tried to set them free. They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they’ll listen now.
Until next week.….