What can I say about Vincent Van Gogh? I’m not an artist. I don’t know much about art. I am not qualified enough to critique the paintings of a Post impressionist modern artist.
However, a series of accidental and intentional events have bought me here.
My story with this phenomenal artist starts in 2013 Paris.
I’m on a student exchange trip. We’re at the Louvre museum. I understand nothing. We’re roaming around. Tired. Trying to make sense of the immense culture and value that this place holds. A professor is with us. She grabs me by my hand and tells me to hurry. We’ve to go see Gogh’s work.
I don’t know who Gogh is but I do know who my professor is. A woman I must not mess with.
I follow her and look at the work. A large group of people have gathered around to see it.
Back in the present. It’s 2020. I’ve just finished reading a book. Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman. To write this piece, I try to do some digging. What paintings of Gogh’s are on display in the Louvre? After some searching, the results show me that the Louvre like other museums, rotates pieces. I’m not too sure at this point if years back what I saw was even Vincent Van Gogh’s painting.
Returning from the trip, I never thought much about the art I had seen in Paris or Vincent Van Gogh. I was fifteen then. But soon, Gogh’s name started to appear all over. It was on We Heart It, Pinterest and Instagram. His painting, ‘The Starry night’ appeared on people’s canvases in an attempt to copy it, on wallpapers, the back of people’s jackets, T shirts. His quotes, some of which I’m not sure if he ever even said them, occupy a chunk of the internet and are quite popular among woke kids.
What does this all mean? Why am I rambling here?
Reading about Vincent’s life introduced me to the world of art. There is so much that goes behind a ‘piece’ when an artist creates. What was he thinking? Where did he make this? What was his mood like that day? Did he skip dinner to make it? What was the concept behind it? Was it for someone?
Why is there so much contrast? Why are there huge asses in this particular painting? Why are the colours so dull?
Some of Vincent’s earlier paintings are considered dull. For a long time, Vincent simply couldn’t afford the paints that he wanted and used the paints he could make use of!
What I’ve come to realize is that art is so much more than what meets the eye. Vincent’s story and his life is what makes his work so inspiring.
Reading the book made me realize that a lot of painters were involved in each others lives. They would go to each others exhibitions and talk about the paintings. Discuss. Critique. They would draw inspiration from other works. Like Vincent Van Gogh took inspiration from Japanese prints.
I got introduced to some beautiful words like pentimento and impasto.
This brief tryst with Van Gogh makes me want to dive deeper into the world of art and what moves it. Why people paint what they paint and how they paint it. What is it that makes art transcend barriers and be remembered for so long. These are questions I’m just beginning to ask myself.
But how cliche is it to like Van Gogh? Well, some things are cliche for a reason!
All I know is that I want to see new paintings, learn more about the artists. My journey has just began and It excites me more than anything.
Here I attach one of my favourite paintings by Vincent Van Gogh.
Almond Blossom- painted as a gift for his brother Theo’s son, Van Gogh’s namesake. His nephew was the founder of the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.