Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Like little dots on a map

"If you have ever slept under the stars, you will know that a mysterious world awakens in solitude and silence as we're sleeping"

On the first night I went to the Van Gogh Museum. I went to the first floor of the permanent exhibit and after exploring the first couple of rooms I was exhausted. After spending 15E on the entry fee I was not about to leave so I went downstairs and bought a cookie and a coffee in the cafe. I wrote on some napkins and occasionally dozed off. Eventually I felt slightly more alert and finished the regular exhibit. I saw many lovely paintings including another one of the Sunflowers. I have now seen at least three, maybe four, of the five which exist.

Afterwards I listened to a band playing in the lobby for a bit and then found out I didn't have to pay for the special exhibit. The Van Gogh Museum with New York City's Museum of Modern Art put together this night exhibit. It was probably one of my favorite things in Amsterdam. Not only was Starry Night (and a few of my other favorite Van Gogh -and non Van Gogh- paintings) exhibited, but they had a great audio guide to go with it. It was a good length so I never got tired. I even asked the audio tour for the extra facts a couple of times.

I really felt as though I learned a lot of things. I knew Van Gogh had tried to put together a bit of an artists' community which he was going to start with Gaugin, but Van Gogh and Gaugin had disagreements. I had forgotten- or perhaps never knew- the rest of the story. Gaugin and Van Gogh's central disagreement was how one should do art: paint, draw, whatever... Van Gogh believed your subject should be taken from life. Gaugin believed that to paint from one's imagination was even greater. The reason Van Gogh didn't want to paint completely from imagination was because he didn't want to free himself completely from reality. I suppose now would be a good time to mentionthat when Van Gogh was in the asylum he began painting more from his imagination... Of course, that wasn't the only way he painted... Landweg in de Provence bijnacht (1890) was his last painting done at the asylum. It was completely from memory.

"I have a terrible need for- I will use the word religion, so I go outside at night to paint the stars"

Starry Night was not from memory. It was painting at night on The Rhone. He manipulated some of it, obviously, but he was looking at the real night sky as he painted. The stars were a source of comfort for Van Gogh.

Throughout the exhibit I really enjoyed reading/hearing bits of Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. I think their relationship is remarkable.
Van Gogh often included small sketches of his pictures in his letters to Theo. They're wonderful and look just right. Vincent also recommended that Theo read Longfellow because he "will no doubt become a friend of yours". This is excellent advice.

While in the Van Gogh Museum I decided I could never be a museum currator. Being a museum for too long makes me feel quite exhausted. Plus I like them to be quiet and I could never be quiet for that long. I was a little peeved at one particular currator. Sometimes there are certain paintings that you want to spend more time with. There was no bench near this painting (it was on the other side of the room), but I wanted to sit so I just sat on the floor. The currator came over and told me that I needed to stand up or sit over there (he points to the benches far away from the painting). I was in no one's way. I was causing no harm. I think he had his paintings in a bit of a twist. I paid 15 euros, I can sit on the floor not bothering anyone if I want. Rawr.

"Why, I say to myself, should the spots of lights in the firmament be less acessable to us than the black spots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star."

A few other tidbits about my Museum experience:
-During the exhibit I would read the first line or two of the description before I realized it was Dutch and none of it was going to make sense
-At the museum they had two of the versions of The Sower that Van Gogh did. The larger one just liked a bigger tv in which the colors were lighter
-By adding orange and blue together you get a gross color which allows for you to have better grays
-[I knew this, but it's good to be reminded] The Potato Eaters is an exercise in color
-Avond (naar Millet)
-Eugene Delacroix taught Van hos to produce effective color contrast
-Van Gogh's father was a minister. Van Gogh originally felt called to preach or deliver the Gospel. He still did deliver that light, just in another medium. He kind of knew this.
-In 1887 "grue" (crane) and "grenouielle" (frog) in french meant "women of easy virtue"
-Seurat is a pointalism master
-Theodule Ribol did a nice still life with eggs. I don't think we often realize how complex and cool eggs are.
-The Yellow House (1888) = Het Sele Huis

"The sight of the stars always makes me dream, in as simple way as the black spots on the map representing towns and villages make me dream"
-Van Gogh

No comments: