Saturday, November 8, 2008

Starry, Starry Night - Vincent van Gogh - I wish I had known him

Of course many of us amateur and semi professional painters identify with Vincent van Gogh on some levels. We know what it is to think and dream about painting, to struggle over the composition and achievement, to be elated at a satisfying result. We know the disappointment of rejection for a juried show or of seeing our works unsold for months and years. Teachers try to prepare us for rejection. Vincent was ill prepared by temperament, experience and influences. Tortured man. All of his life he struggled with his fluctuating emotions and his lack of confidence. We all know of his insanity and his suicide by which he ended his life at age 37. Did you know that he was born in 1853, the son of a Dutch pastor and that he himself served briefly as a preacher in a dreary mining district of Belgium known as the Borinage but he was dismissed for being overzealous. He wanted to evangelize the poor around him. By age 27 after pastoring, clerking in a bookstore and selling other artists’ works, he made the decision to embark upon an artistic career. He studied art in Belgium and in Paris. His earlier paintings were somber and dark exemplied by "The Potato Eaters" (1885). After studying in Paris and spending time with notables such as Pissaro, Monet and Gauguin his palette became lighter and his brushstrokes shorter resembling the Impressionists. In time, van Gogh’s paintings became known for their bold use of colour. Interestingly, one year before he died, he wrote the following to his brother Theo. “…the painter of the future will be a colourist the like of which has never yet been seen.” He was so sure that a great painter of the future would appear who would know how to use colour. During a nine year span between 1881 and 1990 when he gave up on life, he painted over 900 paintings, yet sadly during his life he sold only one painting, “The Red Vineyard,’(on the right) which sold for 400 francs a few months before his death. Van Gogh suffered from more than poor sales, but actual mental illness, associated with various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions. His great fame and collectibility came well after he was gone. In 1990 one of his most revered paintings, the Portrait of Dr. Gachet fetched a record price of $82.5 million.
Did you know that Don McLean's composition "Starry Starry Night" was based on one of van Gogh's most famous painting by the same name?You will enjoy listening and watching this visual of Vincent's paintings set to Don McLean's song. Or, you can hear Josh Groban do it.

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