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.
5/31/2012 01:50:13 am

Van Gogh's shoes play an important theoretical role in Heidegger's phenomenology. Heidegger thought that the painting allows us to engage with the "primordial level of engaged existence," transcending the divide between reality and "mere aesthetic representation" and (to quote Wikipedia) to "to encounter and understand" reality in a deep way: "In so doing, Heidegger thinks, Van Gogh's painting allows us to encounter the very essence of art."

5/31/2012 11:31:45 pm

Fascinating, Robin. I've just pulled up an article on Heidegger's Aesthetics, so I'll take your comment as an invitation to dig into what he's getting at. It's more fun to learn through connections than just to jump into Heidegger because he's someone I "should" know something about.


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