He sold just one painting during his lifetime, but as each year passes, Vincent Van Gogh’s flame grows ever brighter. More than 1.5 million people visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam last year, making it one of the most popular museums in the world.
A new glass entrance hall to allow visitors access from Museumplein will open next year and after a recent facelift, closed spaces have been opened up along with the addition of three large screens montaging his affect on popular culture, including Van Gogh as ‘Groundskeeper Willie’ from The Simpsons. The painter was a prolific letter writer and a real highlight of the exhibition is his letters to his Brother, Theo. Perhaps surprisingly these are mostly optimistic ponderings from someone whose relatively short life was tinged with so much sadness.
Van Gogh was often inspired by other artists and Jozef Israëls painting, ‘A Peasant Family at the Table’ (below) was definitely in his mind when he began the studies for what would become ‘The Potato Eaters’. Up close it’s possible to see the fantastic use of light in this twisted, macabre study of late nineteenth century poverty. Van Gogh did several versions, but once his Brother (an art dealer in Paris) saw the unfashionable subject matter it became a catalyst for Vincent moving to the French capital and re-thinking his whole approach to painting.
Bedroom in Arles (1888)
Since 2006, the Museum have been forensically studying dozens of Van Gogh’s works. The findings suggest that over the years some of his paintings have altered significantly colour-wise. Perhaps the best example is ‘Bedroom in Arles’, a digital version close to the original shows the walls with much a darker, violet colour thought to be nearer to the original pigments.
Interestingly this new insight changes the look of this study of his bedroom at 2, Place Lamartine, to nearer a night scene. I wondered if this changes the perceived mood of Vincent himself when it was painted?
One of seven similar paintings Vincent did of Sunflowers in 1888 and 1889 during a more optimistic period of his life with hopes of starting an artistic community with his friend Paul Gaugin as mentor. In 1987 a version was sold for $39.7 million, making it the most expensive painting
in the worlds at the time. This version is conservatively valued at $200 million.
Painted as a present to his brother and sister-in-law after the birth of their son, Vincent’s nephew (also called Vincent). As such it holds a special place in the hearts of the Van Gogh family, and perhaps because of its Japanese Woodcut influences it’s also by far the most popular reproduction sold in the gift shop.
Wheat Field with Crows (1890)
Thia painting was done in a location close to where Van Gogh committed suicide, contrary to popular belief and the obvious symbolism, ‘Wheat Field with Crows’ was not quite Vincent’s last painting. Even when the dark clouds closed in, his love affair with nature still remained strong.
I travelled to Amsterdam with KLM from Norwich,
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This feature can also be seen in Flush#16