2015: A year celebrating the art of Van Gogh
The life of Vincent van Gogh was catastrophically brilliant and entirely surreal. It was a short life too, come to a tragic conclusion on July 29th 1890. He was 27 when he fatally shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He’d never know just how great he had become.
In his youth, before he had ever demonstrated any serious interest or skill in art, Van Gogh was caught up in religious fervour. He held ambitions to be a pastor and for a while worked as a missionary. However, he was ill at ease. Something in him desired to break free.
On the advice of his younger brother Theo, the more emotionally and financially stable of the two siblings, Van Gogh, somewhat directionless, finally decided to concentrate on his art.
His early work, though impressive given that it was all down to natural talent – he was largely self-taught – was not particularly outstanding and he depended on Theo’s support to get by (he certainly wasn’t in demand).
The late art critic Robert Hughes, who has described Van Gogh’s late works as being near perfect, indicative of a master in full control of his gift and “longing for concision and grace”, positioned these initial exercises as being “not just bad, but worthy bad, which is (if anything) worse”.
However, as Mr Hughes noted in a Guardian article in 2005, this “earnest duffer pupated into one of the great visionaries of western art”, constructing an ironically beautiful vision of the world – the earnestly spiritual The Starry Night (1889) and the life-affirming Sunflowers (1890) – despite his unease in it.
He is an artist whose work demands to be seen in the flesh, rich as they are in texture, a physicality that cannot be properly understood in any other way. Though there is, of course, no time quite the present, next year sees the 125thanniversary of the Dutch painter’s death, and in honour of his contribution to art, the Van Gogh Europe Foundation is celebrating his work.
Working with 35 organisations, and under the theme of ‘125 years of inspiration’, 2015 will bear witness to all sorts of cultural events and exhibitions examining how he continues to influence the world of art.
One of the main highlights includes the show Munch: Van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which is the first time these contemporaries have ever been brought together.
Other distinguished events include the Mons 2015 Foundation’s exhibition Van Gogh in the Borinage, the birth of an artist; the Kroller-Muller Museum presenting Van Gogh & Co; and a discussion at the North Brabant Museum with the artist Daan Roosegaarde who was inspired by Van Gogh. It is bittersweet to think how he may have reacted to such a legacy.
“What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person – [is] somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low,” he once ruminated.
“All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me.”
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