Monday, July 12, 2010

It's All Vincent's Fault...All That Beauty

For some reason, I found myself thinking about Vincent van Gogh this evening. I'd been outside admiring my yard and its inhabitants. Of the botanical kind. There are just so many greens. I recalled letters Vincent wrote to his brother and benefactor, Theo, about color and its nuances, particularly those found in yellows and greens. He wrote in one of those letters, dated October of 1885,  "I don't mind so much whether my color corresponds exactly, as long as it looks as beautiful on my canvas as it looks in nature."  I still have, after the great purge, a few books about Vincent left in my library. I took them down tonight and paged through them. Some of  the plates are so well-done that it's almost the next-best-thing-to in-person.

I've long had a soft spot for Vincent. I think he must have had a beautiful mind. And, how it's beauty tormented him.  And probably everyone around him. It can't be easy to live in this world when who you are, in your soul, is so antithetical to what you see happening in the world.

Maybe you have a favorite self-portrait of his. That one is mine. His first. For me, it goes directly to his heart. For a brief moment, he captured a part of himself that was vulnerable, but had not yet gone mad from the world's inability to see and feel what he saw and felt. The beauty. The truth of it.

Below, is one of my favorite paintings of his, Interior of a Restaurant, painted in the summer of 1887. I love the greens. Each dash of color on the restaurant wall, the splashes of green in the table bouquets. And the yellows in the floor. I can start to understand his obsession. Taken from inside the dreamlike quality of Impressionism, they almost feel touchable, knowable.

When my younger son was in elementary school, first grade, I believe, he had a fine music teacher who understood that creativity involves all of our senses; that you can feel, even hear, a painting; that paintings can remind us of music and music can reciprocate. One day, Mr. C. had put up a picture of a van Gogh painting and asked if anyone knew who the painter was. Coleman provided the answer and the name of the painting. Sometimes, children have a natural predilection for something or someone and this was one of those for him, art and music being integral to our lives.

I believe art and music should be integral to everyone's life. But, before I start to preach, perhaps I should give my confession.

It was an exhibit of Impressionism at a well-established art museum which shall go unnamed. I had not intended to go astray. It just sorta happened. As these things tend to do. Let's call it temporary insanity, shall we?

Anyway, it was near the end of the day and everyone else had left. Not planned. Just convenient. One lone guard stood sentry at the end of the hall. I had been standing before a particular painting for several minutes. I believe it was, Landscape With Cart and Train,"  by Vincent. I'm telling you, I simply could not get enough of that field.

I didn't arrive at an elaborate plan. It was an almost instantaneous decision to go insane and reach out, just for a second, and touch it with the tip of my finger. Well, I did ask JB to give me instantaneous notice of when the guard turned his head, even for a nano-second.  I wasn't completely insane.

I know. I can hear you gasping. I do know better. I do. I know all the reasons why it's so wrong. I'm telling you, it was just completely and utterly irresistible to me, in that moment. That's why they call it temporary insanity.

I have oft asked forgiveness for that particularly egregious act.  I'm not certain, yet, if I've been forgiven. If it's even possible. Maybe I'm hoping this will increase my chances.

I hope you have time to watch and listen to this video. Almost unbearable beauty. And a song to match.

And, I'm certain I'm not the first to ask, 'Who's going to fill these shoes?"


  1. I am now feeling slightly more comfortable about touching Kay S.'s right breast when I was 13 and very aroused.

  2. I could see, could feel myself reaching out and touching a Van Gogh. I've never seen the painting of Vincent's Interior of a Restaurant, so beautiful. I've always felt deeply whenever I see the painting The Scream, viewing it I somehow feel much more free to feel deeply, to feel more passionately, to be ok with feeling pain. I watched the video and have always loved that song. Now I am in tears so early in the morn from the wonder, the beauty, the feelings.

  3. Dear Anon., I'm happy to be of some small assistance on your Road to Redemption. Confession is good for the soul. ;)

    Linda, thank you for sharing your response to the video. Images and a song I never tire of. Have a beauty of a day.

  4. Van Gogh was probably the first artist whose work I really got to know, and who engendered some emotional response. I loved looking at the pictures here, and then I went and watched the video, and of course the song has me very melancholy. In a nice, smiling, laid back way. Thank you! And I can totally understand why you'd want to touch the real thing....

  5. Thank you, Nancy. VG has blessed our lives in immeasurable ways.

  6. So, you touched a master? Inspiring. Not to worry, I nearly did that with Guernica, but got cold hands.

  7. Jack, there was something about seeing how he laid down the color, the brushstrokes right there... His brush, His canvas... And, yes, Picasso, has his own mystique.

  8. I watched the video 3 times! Had completely forgotten about that beautiful song..... sigh.... :-)
    My favorite painting by Vincent wasn't in the video, it's called:
    Almond Blossom.
    It is a completely different painting than the ones that are famous.
    This painting was painted to celebrate the birth of his nephew. As a fellow dutch(wo)man and living in Amsterdam I have seen it several times for real in de Van Gogh museum and I tell you, that painting touches me every time.
    What the painting says to me is that he, instead of the daily/hard live and the 'ordinary' people he painted (maybe for him to stay grounded?) this time he painted the love he felt. That's what, for me, pours out of that painting every time I see it.... pure love.
    and ofcourse, the real thing is something different than a picture but here's a link to a picture of the painting if you're interested:

    blessed be,


  9. Monique, I have seen images of this painting and am always intrigued by how different, how unique it is to his style. I appreciate your response to it. Pure love. Very nice. Isn't it wonderful when a painting or other work of art evokes a feeling such as this? Thank you, so much, for sharing your thoughts on this painting.