Musings on Van Gogh

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I am seeking, I am stirring, I am in it with all my heart.

– Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

One day I hope to see “Starry Night” in person rather than on a computer screen or in an art book.  It’s my favorite of Van Gogh’s works as there is something dreamlike and magical about his view of the night sky.   I’ve been fortunate to see some of his other works in a few museums throughout my travels, but “Starry Night” remains on my bucket list.

The National Gallery in London has a beautiful collection of Van Gogh paintings and I make it a point to visit them whenever I wander into Trafalgar Square.  The first time I saw “Sunflowers” in person, I literally forgot how to breathe. I’d seen postcards and images in books, but nothing compares to personally witnessing the broad brushstrokes that define his unique style.  The paint jumps up from the canvas and gives even the most ordinary objects incredible flare.   I’ve spent hours staring at his paintings as they evoke powerful emotions and inspire fascinating trains of thought.

Van Gogh lead an interesting life filled with bouts of illness and insanity, but no one can deny he lived with passion.  Something beautiful lived inside of him and it came out of his paintbrush, with purpose and chaos. Perhaps it was his way of sorting out the mess in his head, where everything splintered between reality and imagination.  Somehow the two sides of him collide in erratic mosaics in bold colors.  Each stroke is a mad dash that makes no sense, but when it connects to the rest, a cascade of wonder fills the canvas.

Call it insanity, creativity, passion, or art, Van Gogh showed the world what it means to live out loud and in color.  We may sometimes be broken, weak, and fractured, but we are beautiful when all the pieces come together.  Van Gogh chose to seek when nothing made sense. He stirred when everyone told him to stay still.  He was in it with all his heart, even when it hurt.  We should all be so bold.

Van Gogh's "Wheat Field With Cypresses" re-imagined with live greenery. National Gallery, London, June 2011, c.b.w.

I’ve posted this image before, but its still one of the more interesting things I saw in London last summer.  Outside the National Gallery, a wall of live greenery created a garden representation of “Wheat Field With Cypresses.” It’s fun to compare it to the actual painting:

Wheat Field With Cypresses by Vincent Van Gogh

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c.b. 2012

43 thoughts on “Musings on Van Gogh

  1. I concur, I would also love to see the master piece in real life. I am afraid to say that I have been to the National Gallery many times, however have never seen Sunflowers. How could I miss that?!

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    • They do move it a lot. I’ve gone to see it four times and it’s been on a different wall every time! 😉 Of course, its possible they loaned it out to another museum while you were there.

      Thanks so much for reading!

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  2. Seeing Monets’ paintings in Paris, the Nymphéas. Absolutely amazing to stand so close and see the detail in the brush strokes. Then to stand back and see the whole.

    Great place to go.

    Jim

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    • Monet is another one of my favorites. Every time I see one of his paintings, the world seems to pause. I’ve seen a number of versions of Nympheas, most notably at London’s Tate Museum. I was in Paris a number of years ago and I wish I could remember if I saw it – I guess its time to go back to the journals!

      Pissarro is another gem of impressionism. 🙂

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  3. one of my favourite memories is a visit to the Van Gogh museum in Holland. I’ve always been fascinated by his work and his life. My favourite painting of his, is Fishing Boats – one of the boats has a name on it – amitie – Friendship in French. That has always tugged at my heart strings as he was such a lonely man. He suffered from Frontal Lobe Epilepsy.
    Thank you for reminding me, today, of the joy his work brings to my heart.

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    • I’ve been toying with going to Amsterdam for a couple of years now – the timing never feels right, but I know I’ll eventually get there. One big reason why this city calls to me is the Van Gogh museum. I’ll spend an entire day in there, I just know it. 🙂

      Van Gogh’s life was difficult, but I like to think his art saved him in many respects. I think it made it possible for him to endure all he suffered.

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    • Me, too! Or in any medium for that matter. Artists see the world in such interesting and intriguing ways. I love how they challenge you to see things from a new perspective, both inside and out. 🙂

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  4. Van Gogh has always been a treasure to me. When I was a mini-museum art guide, I would take coloring sheets of Starry Night to the children and play Don McLean’s song as they would color their pages. After the song, I would show them the print and it was fascinating to hear their comments and see their faces. Many of them could feel Van Gogh’s magic and their coloring would reflect that. It was one of my favorite artists to bring in.

    Are you going or have you gone yet to the Science Center’s Van Gogh exhibit? It’s on my birthday wish list and I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for the reminder of what a feeling artist he was.

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  5. Rebekah

    Never seen any of them in real life. Love Starry Night and Don McLean’s song too, but «Wheat Field with Crows» is my favourite. Can’t really explain why..

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      • Rebekah

        It would, indeed … at the same time as it would break my heart. He didn’t have an easy life and still created all this beauty … as did many others in this genre..

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      • I think that’s part of the reason why I admire him so much. He had every reason to give up and wallow in misery, but instead he chose to create beauty. It takes a lot of strength and courage to take that path when so many impediments block your way.

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  6. Yellow House is named in part for my love for Vincent. I was fortunate to see a recreation of the Yellow House, a traveling exhibit from Amsterdam, in Chicago years ago. It is terrible to say, but I cannot remember all the paintings…I think I was in a bit of a surreal haze. The live green rendition is fab ~

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    • Sometimes I go into total sensory overload in an art museum. Thats probably why I keep going back to the National Gallery. How else am I going to calm down enough to take it all in? 😉

      I love the inspiration behind your blog’s title. I always wondered and now that I know the meaning behind it, the name is even more beautiful. 🙂

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  7. I’ve seen some famous paintings in real life at various museums. I often feel very small observing one of them, and I try to “see” it from the artist’s perspective. Picaso’s Cubism stuff is like, “What was he thinking?” and Waterlilies is just, “Wow. That’s a lot of canvass and paint.” I’ve taken notes while walking through galleries filled with Monet, then later on compared his painting to other acts of creativity. It was then that I read about Gertrude Stein. “Midnight in Paris” made a lot of sense then. Thanks for the post 🙂

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    • I always feel like a little gnat when I’m in an art museum, mainly because I’m in a constant state of awe while sharing space with so much creative genius. They are always so inspiring and ask me to explore my perspective with a new point of view. I love that!

      A Monet painting brought me to tears more than once. The colors he uses reach right into me . . . I don’t know how else to describe it. 🙂

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  8. I loved the Van Gogh Museum, as well as the National Gallery in London, and the Impressionist museum in Paris….sigh….it is so wonderful to see the works of these master artists in person. It moves me to tears sometimes….great post.

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    • I’ve had that quote scribbled in my journal for years. Its the one I always turn to when I feel tired or blocked creatively. Life is too short to be anything but in it with all my heart. 🙂

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  9. Ahhh, you’ve hit a hot button with me. My favorite period is the Renaissance, followed very closely by Impressionists like Monet and Renoir.

    Van Gogh and Matisse are both artists, I feel, whose work reflected the turmoil of their inner-man more than most…like Munch, for instance. The subject matter for Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night may imply a peaceful quiet, but his brush strokes and use of color, to me, contradict that. The one thing his paintings do reveal is his passion for his art. We should all be so fortunate to feel that strongly about something.

    Excellent post – thank you.

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    • I’ve got a soft spot for the Renaissance, too. In the National Gallery they have a fantastic collection of Northern Renaissance painters, including one of my favorite, Jan Van Eyck.

      Whenever I look at Van Gogh’s starry night, I am immediately jolted. I can feel him stirring and I love how soul is imprinted on that canvas. 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  10. wonderful post. I’ve lost my breath standing in front of a Van Gogh myself – I know the feeling!

    “Something beautiful lived inside of him and it came out of his paintbrush, with purpose and chaos. “

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