Tag Archive: Van Gogh

Van Gogh in Arles

A dream come true for Nieta y Nieto. For their abuela too. Prepped ourselves good with an afternoon visit of Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, read up on countless books and articles on this genius, and checked out his many artworks both popular and not so. There were many of the latter too. After all, Van Gogh was such a prolific painter (over 2,000! — nearly half of which painted in Provence in his short life’s last 2 years) that countless works didn’t earn as much distinction as those made into posters, postcards and other merch. Being big fans of Vincent, we made sure we didn’t miss the Van Gogh Tour as a day trip from our Provençal base in Avignon. The driver guide we had for this adventure was named after the artist. His namesake, another Vincent. He wasn’t the best driver and the 3 of us had vertigo spells as Vincent weaved through the traffic and hardly stepped on the brakes. We leaned left, right, forward just like Van Gogh’s sunflowers caught in a mistral. But he was a good guide, and obviously loves the place of his birth, Provence. In Arles, he brought us first to the garden park where Van Gogh painted many landscapes. The “lighting” and bright colors he was searching for, he found in the south of France. The trees have grown since over a century ago, and the layout must have changed. But the sheer thought that we are treading on the same soil and may have stood on the same spot as the great artist is mind-blowing. The apos were thrilled!

Espace Van Gogh

A marker stands by the park’s frontage. A loving dedication to a most venerated visitor-resident who moved from Paris to this Provençal town. He may have been “chasing the softer light” in Provence but I suspect what he found as well was something to “quiet” his soul and pacify his troubled mind. Away from the city chaos, Vincent painted away madly in Arles, as he did in St. Remy de Provence while in asylum and finally in his last residence in Auvers-sur-Oise. The exhibit we viewed — “Final Moments in Auvers” — at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam prepared viewers to the artist’s mind’s turmoil as he moved from Arles to St. Remy to Auvers. In today’s world, science may have tagged him as bipolar or suffering from ADHD. Who knows? What’s known for sure is that he painted a lot in a very short period of his artistic life. Darn, he painted madly in his short life. Dead at 37, he left behind many sketches, etchings, paintings of landscapes, nature, still lifes, peasants, and quite a pile of self-portraits. In all this, he proclaimed: “Art is to console those who are broken by life.Poignant message. Pierces the soul.

Street Scene in Arles?
A Roman Arena in Arles

Who can say what he found in Arles while he lived there? Stayed 15 months, created over 300 masterpieces. Just like Picasso, Arles ignited his passion and provided him innumerable objects of inspiration. He loved painting nature, and painted it in bold, dramatic hues. He may have exaggerated the “force” of the howling wind from the Mediterranean, brightened up several notches the starlights and the moon and the sun, deepened the blue hues of the sky. My apologies — I’m rambling. No art expert here. Just a regular fan’s musings. Indulge me. 😊

Espace Van Gogh

For sure, he found time to indulge himself. The Cafe de Van Gogh is marked as a tourist trap but how can you dismiss nor ignore this place? He painted Cafe Terrace at Night with this inspiration. The starry night background started a series and it is reported that Van Gogh has developed a stargazing habit which may have been prompted by some religious attachment. He proceeded to paint more star-filled skies after this, the most epic of which is “Starry Night”. At the same time, his stay in Arles was marked by an ear-slicing incident that brought him to a hospital just before Christmas. He had a serious altercation with Gauguin who lived with him in Arles briefly in a two-storey yellow house immortalised in a painting. Sadly, this incident marked the start of the artist’s deteriorating mental health. It won’t be long after this hospital stint that Vincent volunteered to be admitted in an asylum in St. Remy de Provence. Amidst all this turmoil, he created many works of art. The hospital courtyard is now called “Espace Van Gogh” and is included in every typical Van Gogh Tour around Arles.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” — Van Gogh

We covered a lot of museums in Amsterdam. Like 7! But only 1 museum in Brussels. Both cities proud of their Van Gogh and Magritte. One with a troubled Dutch mind who found expression in his art. Another who was quite happy with his life as artist, husband, leader and friend and expressed his joys in his art.

The Van Gogh collection is impressive. In his short life, Vincent was prolific, painting almost every single detail of his brief existence. With his numerous self-portraits, you can say he indulged in selfies. The dark rooms and galleries are intended to safeguard and protect his many artworks. The art world has Theo (Vincent’s brother) to thank for supporting Vincent throughout his turbulent moods and insecurities. This brother’s love is soooo moving, and one can understand how and why Theo passed nearly as soon as Vincent left. And just as touching was how Theo’s wife Jo made sure this Van Gogh collection found their way into our world today. Once more, the power of love made everything possible. How wonderful!

On the other hand, I find René Magritte’s collections so well-curated in the museum in Brussels. For less than half the admission price of major museums in Amsterdam, the Magritte Museum is truly value for money. The museum is massive and the collections hung so impressively. Like a lot of thought went into planning how the artworks should be displayed. It is easy to spend a whole afternoon here, and even to “space out” to enjoy this master’s works. The crowds are mostly locals, like Belgian schoolchildren and young adults likely studying art here.

I know. You love Van Gogh. Can’t miss it in Amsterdam. But do visit Magritte Museum in Brussels too. Twice as big if not more than Vincent’s museum in Dutchland, and equally impressive.