Monday, August 6, 2012

Finished Vincent!

I am so happy to say that I finished reading a big book today.  Vincent Van Gogh The Life. It was s an journey to experience all 850 pages, plus notes and appendix and some online stuff too. This book was a scholarly work with dozens of them working to make it happen and has really filled in all sorts of details about him and his life that we didn't know from his childhood to the miserable end. It was difficult at times because it held a mirror on to my own artistic and emotional disappointments and failures. So some evenings it was hard to keep reading because it was making me feel depressed but I was driven to find out what happened to him. All the way through each new phase was interesting because the story teller keeps pulling one along from one chapter to the next. In this the complete story the only thing missing was a cataloge raisonné of all his art works to illustrate his biography. They do have a good number of illustrations in black and white as well as full color. Now that the work is owned by so many different museums and collectors his work it's impossible due to copyrights but it would enhance the reading to see everything together with the stories. The one thing that is online and was used at the late stages of the writing is a complete collection and new translations of his & brother Theo letters which does have many images in the notes with the texts right there to click and reveal. I hope that is the future of writing to be able to do comprehensive illustration and illumination of all histories.

I watched Lust For Life  the Academy award winning movie from 1955 with Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn based on a novel written by Irving Stone in the 1934. First time I saw it was when I was a kid in the 1960's on black and white TV. Back then I wished we had a color set then to see the full color of these exciting scenes and paintings. Recently I saw it again on TCM in full color and was a little disappointed in the story and the acting but the color and costumes and scenes were great. The second viewing was while I was waiting to get my hands on the book that was published late in 2011 after I saw the Authors of the new book on 60 Minutes describing their new theory about his death. It is really moving the whole story is really quite amazing. My view of Paul Gauguin is greatly diminished by the stories of his egotism and antics to get Theo to support him and sell his paintings while using Vincent as a pawn and hurting him emotionally a great deal. But to be fair to Gauguin, Vincent was hoping to use him to further his career too, it just happens Gauguin was the stronger more powerful and successful of the two at that time.

Paul Gauguin's portrait of Vincent in the Arles Yellow House where he mocked the size of his manhood with that little thumb in the palette and discredited his love of "copying" nature...
In the end, it was all a good read and cleared up some mysteries in my mind about Vincent Vangogh, his skills, mental problems and challenges. He was a pitiful tormented man living in a time that didn't know what to do about his eccentric behavior  except reject and mock him. Eventually he got treatment for his underlying disorder psychomotor epilepsy and syphilis which are both treatable today. Vincent remains the ultimate outsider, he is a hero in so many ways but his over judgmental times family and cultures made him so doubtful of his visions and accomplishments. This so much undermined his self image in the last months of his life he couldn't really believe the critics finally found him to be a genius and a leader of the post impressionist movement. He sold one painting right near the end and got a number of very influential  reviews and articles on his work published. He was on the verge of getting the financial rewards he hoped for his entire life when the accident with the gun ended it all. One thing I would like to know more about is the story from there to here. Who besides his brother picked up the torch and brought him to the top of the art collector's market? Theo only lived a six months beyond Vincent and died raving mad in an asylum crazy with syphilis but he was determined to see Vincent remembered and his work survive. His nephew named for his uncle Vincent Van Gogh helped but I wish the book told us more about how these paintings became so influential in the modern art era. 

self portrait in the NGA collection

 my morning sketch of sunflowers and calla lily 

my sketch of sunflowers in ceramic vase 
I was inspired by Vincent's fearless manic work ethic that he kept trying over and over to get the images he wanted in spite of his poor skills and he defended his mission to keep practicing until he reached his goals. He was very stubborn, he created a huge volume of work in spite of all sorts of hardships. His depressions often ended in manic recoveries where he worked so fast other painters mocked him for the aggressive way he used the brush to put paint on the canvas. I do not have as many problems as Vincent but health and income are always worries but he is a beacon of inspiration to get busy no matter what; proving showing up at the blank page is always a good idea often rewarded with nothing more than knowing you accomplished something of your own today.

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