While in Ottawa this past week, I had the opportunity to see the  Van Gogh exhibition entitled "Van Gogh - Up Close," hosted at the National Gallery of Canada from May through September. As Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, it was a real treat to see a significant collection of his work, much of which was new to me. I've put together a slideshow of pieces that I especially enjoyed, both for color, movement and theme.

There are some excellent sites on Van Gogh, if you're interested in learning more about this post-impressionist Dutch artist. (The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery, and Van Gogh Gallery are quite impressive.) At Wikipaintings you can view more than 1900(!!) paintings and sketchings produced before Van Gogh tragically died at the age of 37. I took some time to race through the 33 pages, and was impressed by the growth in artistry (the 10,000 hours mastery rule applies here) as well as the studies that show up in later work. For instance, Van Gogh is sketching "sowers" from early on,  often copying Millet, a French artist he admired. I had a sense of surprise and also of anticipation when coming upon these early pieces, as I knew they would show up several years later in his own well known works such as "Sower with Setting Sun."

By following the artwork chronologically, I also noticed that Van Gogh was taken by themes, working out his relationship to his material over a series of paintings. In addition, Van Gogh's technique went through various stages; he replaced the duller colors of his Dutch art heritage with bolder choices when he moved to France. After experimenting with pointilism (the use of dots) he expanded to longer brush strokes, ending with the curving swirls that make his Starry Night painting an iconic work.

Visiting the show, doing some more research and grabbing the images off the web made for a delightful experience. I even found some paintings I'd never seen that I wished I had seen in the show! Hope you enjoy.
Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

It's hard to imagine a more lovely May. With some recent rains the lawns are lush and green, and the creek is freshly filled. Wednesday morning I grabbed a poem and headed down to the Yellow Breeches to muse. A family of birds were chattering noisily in a hollow in the sycamore tree above me. Every time a parent would arrive, the squawking would intensify. At one point an oriole settled on a distant branch; the orange happy against the blue sky. As I headed home, a red-winged blackbird gazed at me from a signpost before launching into the sky. Like Milton, I felt blessed

Song on a May Morning
John Milton

Now the bright morning-star,  Day’s harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.

Starry Night over the Rhine by Vincent Van Gogh

God's Grandeur, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, is perhaps the first poem that ever captured my soul. Whenever I read it, I'm struck again by the power of the glory of God. It cannot be buried, suppressed or ignored. And when we are in need of a great renewal, when we yearn like a barren landscape to be reseeded with life and vitality, we can also rely on the brooding Holy Ghost. She rises daily to fill us with the dearest, freshness deep down things, so that once again we can flame out, like shining from shook foil. 

God's Grandeur
Gerard Manley Hopkins

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God. 
   It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
   It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil 
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell:
the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;  
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;          
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

I'll be offline until Feb 20, resting and playing in the shadow of bright wings. See you then.