I get such a visceral reaction from seeing his work, and when I stare at his paintings I try to drink it all in -- the colors, the thick brush strokes (I've been trying to figure out how he got the paint so thick on the canvas without it mushing into the layers already on the canvas), and his choices in using heavy lines sometimes and colors at other times to outline shapes. I did a copy of a Van Gogh painting recently, but it would be cool to do a copy from looking at the actual painting as opposed to a photo, since there is such a three-dimensionality and texture to his painting.
Anyway, I have to say that I was kind of disappointed with the exhibition. Part of the reason is that it's always so crowded that it's hard to just stand and look at the work. And you have to wait. They also didn't have as many pieces as I would have liked. There were a bunch, but I think I was hoping for more of the big ones I'd seen at the Musee d'Orsay and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Or maybe I just can't get enough.
But one thing struck me. It was a fact that I already knew, but struck me again. It was this quote:
"Van Gogh did not pursue a career as an artist until 1880, when he was
twenty-seven years old."
I just turned 27, so this time it was more meaningful to me. I often feel like I am so behind in terms of what I want to achieve, but I realized I am at the age when Van Gogh had just embarked on his art career. It reminded me that I still have time to accomplish a lot.
One has to remember that Van Gogh ended his life, and his career, only 10 years later. Granted, he did work as an art dealer and doodled while pursuing other careers, but I always find it so inspiring that he was able to accomplish so much in that short time. That's also what makes his story so tragic -- who knows what other works he could have made if he had just held on?
What I also find inspiring about Van Gogh is that he accomplished what he did mostly through hard work. He didn't have the virtuosic talent that someone like Picasso possessed, which is evident if you look at his early paintings. The colors are kind of murky and if you look at the Potato Eaters painting, considered his first breakthrough, the figures are grotesque and awkward. Even his figures later on are still kind of awkardly drawn. But he kept working (he was incredibly prolific, especially towards the end of his life, and managed to make over 2000 works over his career) and made some of the most beautiful paintings ever made.
Van Gogh's story is a cautionary tale too. Perhaps he wouldn't have become so famous if he hadn't committed suicide (there is a great scene in the movie She's All That where the protagonist, who is an art student, is recommended to commit suicide in order to further her art career by these two mean girls), but I always wonder what would happen if he had chosen to live. Too often people give up on their dreams when they're on the cusp of something big. When you're really seeking a dream, it often feels like you're not really moving forward, and it would be easier to give up and do something safe. But I don't think I could live with myself, wondering what if?
I love you, Vincent Van Gogh.