I have been spending most of my time working on school work lately. Part of the vacation is suposed to be used to find out if I can finish up my degree or if I am going to stop playing with the idea and get on with getting a job already. This is the put-up-or-shut-up portion of schooling. Today was a vacation day as we all went down to the Van Gogh museum to take a look at the offerings.
The museum offers a wonderful description of the artistic styles and influences that led up to Van Gogh’s style of painting and showed how his work developed and grew up until his death (suicide–gunshot to the chest) in 1890. The paintings were presented with a story of Van Gogh’s life. Examples of the work of his early mentor are mixed with Van Gogh’s work. Similarly, when he created works that were modeled on the works of others (notable Jean-François Millet) often, the original works were displayed beside Van Gogh’s version.
Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus, 1935
As a side note, my first exposure to Millet was through Dali, who had painted Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus
. This painting was displayed in the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida
. That museum is the best part of Florida.
Back to the Van Gogh museum. The displays and the virtual audio tour are designed to be a true “learning experience”(tm). This was, by far, the easiest to understand description of an artist’s work, his influences, and artistic styles that I have seen. We were able to have discussion of Impressionism complete with examples from Monet, Manet, Pissarro, et al. Similarly with Pointillism and Cubism (there was an exhibition that was moved from the Rijksmuseum of work by Jacques Villon, the pseudonym of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘unknown’ brother Gaston Duchamp). “Learning moment” does not cover it. The afternoon was fantastic.
Oh, did I mention the paintings? That was rhetorical; it brings back the original purpose for going to the museum. We got to see Van Gogh’s paintings–many of them, in context.
The Garden of Saint Paul's Hospital, 1889
There were works I knew and many I did not. My favorite (and there was some very stiff competition) was The Garden of Saint Paul’s Hospital
, 1889. I am very seldom emotionally moved by any painting. This one is a view of a mental asylum where Van Gogh admitted himself for about a year and it is (to me) an expression to pure frustration and confusion set in an otherwise tranquil environment. Van Gogh wrote that he often would need to calm himself by spending time in nature contemplating his surroundings. This painting is a view of nature that is not calm. I can imagine the viewer hoping to find repose in the garden and finding only a reflection of his inner turmoil.
Both girls will write about their time in the museum. They may even mention how Daddy took them on a very long walk back home that began with a walk in the exact opposite direction. I have excuses for this as my iPhone has died (no GPS or map) and the Rijksmuseum is under construction making the direct route to the canal slightly more difficult and resulted in one more right turn than should have been taken. I will offer no more excuses for our unplanned expedition. I was wholly at fault. Janet had left early to go to get her back adjusted and had no trouble getting there or back. It was all me.
Glass of Absinthe and a Carafe, 1887
I am enjoying seeing the girls enjoying art. I am enjoying having them point out aspects of paintings that I did not see and then discussing how particular elements fit into the painting style (really, they are doing this; it is possible they are doing it because I practically become giddy with praise and the like when they do because I love it so much). We are able to discuss Paris again because of the paintings set in Montmartre or on the Champs-Élysées. We get to talk about the changing role of women at the time (usually around World War I). We can talk about mental illness and drug abuse–lots of that in the art of the time. Similarly, in many of the paintings from Van Gogh’s Paris years (other artists as well as Van Gogh) depicted “women of questionable virtue” (I got to discuss euphemisms as well–there were lots of phrases that implied prostitution or the more “party-oriented” subjects … hey, there is another euphemism). We even managed to work in some science talk when looking at statues in bronze. We talked about melting points, boiling points, mailability, clay working, kilns, and on and on.
This is not to say that there was not a fair bit of discussing how pretty a particular painting was and how much the trees looked like the woods on PEI. There was a lot of that too and it was every bit as enjoyable.
We stayed at the museum through lunch and ate in the cafeteria. It, too, was very good. The food was tasty and not excessively expensive. It was €41 for the four of us with a main course and drink as well as a small desert.
Tomorrow I will be back at school work. Today will keep me going in smiles for a very long time.