Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of a Man
Heather tucker, Friday, September 9, 2016 , 281 Views
“I don't know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent van Gogh
Ten: That's the number of years that Vincent van Gogh actively spent on his painting career. You wouldn't think that the number would be so low when you look at all the paintings–and people –that fill the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
When I arrived the queue outside was already ample, despite the intermittent showers. And inside couples, families, tour groups, and individuals wandered the halls trying to get a glimpse of the man behind such famous paintings as Bedroom in Arles, The Yellow House, and The Starry Night.
In my best attempt to get to know Van Gogh, I decided to pick up the audio/visual guide available (for a small fee) at the main desk. This ended up being a great decision. The guide–via a 45 min highlight tour or the traditional number for information method–guides you through some of Van Gogh's more important and revealing works. It also introduces you to Van Gogh–the person.
The Determined Man
When it comes to determination, it feels like everyone could learn a thing or two from Van Gogh. One of the first things that you discover at the museum is how Van Gogh used the back of his paintings, "doubling" his materials. His intensity of effort can also be seen in the many different self-portraits–especially the various colours used for his eyes, an attempt to use colours to show emotion.
Beginning in the Brabant village of Zundert and eventually travelling to Paris, Arles, and (less fortunately) the asylum in Saint-Rémy–Van Gogh moved around. And with each move, you also see how his technique and style developed.
The Seeker of Approval
Van Gogh didn't work solely in isolation. He looked up to other painters and sought out their feedback and approval. The response he received, wasn't always positive, however. It was during Paul Gauguin's visit that Van Gogh cut off his ear, and Anthon van Rappard wasn't all that positive about The Potato Eaters.
The Family Man
Van Gogh may not have had a family of his own, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a family man. Theo, his younger brother played a significant role in his life. Later when Theo had a son who he subsequently named after Vincent, Van Gogh painted one of the large Almond Blossoms paintings for the new arrival.
What you learn and see at the Van Gogh Museum is that Van Gogh was anything but the crazy man so often portrayed in history books and artist roundups. Of course, there is no way around his mental illness or that famous "ear incident", but, in all actuality, Van Gogh was a man with great dedication and a desire to be liked. When you leave the museum, you may or may not feel that you know him better, but you will most certainly follow in his footsteps of finding a new way of looking [at the world].
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