We visited the “Van Gogh Alive” exhibition today. Wow! He really came to life. What an experience! I can’t remember anything presented so powerfully. Here were Vincent’s paintings from a 10 year period, 1880 to 1890, blown up to giant size and projected onto enormous canvas-like walls. Interspersed on the floors, walls and even ceilings were snippets from the letters he wrote – a blogger’s daily record of his hopes and disappointments, his ideas, philosophies and sayings, projected for all to read and digest. Synchronized to a powerful classical score, more than 3,000 Van Gogh images at enormous scale create a thrilling display, immersing you entirely in the vibrant colors and vivid details that constitute Van Gogh’s unique style.
A complete misfit in modern terms, any biography of Van Gogh will tell of the terrible struggle he endured because of his all-consuming drive to paint. By the end of his life at the young age of 37, he had sold one painting. His painting career lasted only 10 years and of that period, the first 2 were devoted to drawing. He wasn’t good at that to start with either, but he learnt quickly. More than 800 of his paintings survive and except for Rembrandt, no other artist produced so many (more than 40) self-portraits. Van Gogh poured out his feelings through his paintings. In his urgency to get large quantities of paint onto the canvas, he often squeezed the paint straight from the tube onto the canvas. In his later works the paint is often a centimeter thick.
He also did a great deal of writing – little notes on his sketches and in the many letters he wrote to his brother, the art dealer, Theo. Here he writes about himself, his poor life, the hardships, the hunger the frustration he was suffering.
You certainly had a tough life, Vincent, but what an after-life you’re having – it is completely timeless and will go on forever.