February 3, 2013

Going to Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, 'Self Portrait with Straw Hat",1887 Oil on Canvas,Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam(Vincent Van Gogh Foundation);F:469,JH:1310
I have been going to the Denver Art Museum exhibition "Becoming Van Gogh" as much as I could since it first arrived in Denver in late October. Each time I go I see old friends in the images on the walls. Many paintings and drawings are ones I once pored over in books.
I love this exhibition because it approaches Vincent Van Gogh in the serious way he approached his own work. The exhibit truly studies and looks at the manner in which Van Gogh deliberately went about acquiring skills and building on his own abilities to become the expressive human being whose art work has riveted our attention for more than a century.
If you are looking for confirmation of Vincent as some kind of basket case who crazily piled on color and line and then went roaring into a Provencal field and cut off his ear then this is not the exhibit for you.
At this writing the exhibit is over. It finished with a 24 hour continuous exhibit so the public could see this exhibit. The last few times my husband and I went we took notice of whom was looking with us at this exhibit. We saw a lot of families w/children discussing color and emotion. We saw students and fellow artists all carefully looking and discussing. This exhibit was wonderful. I highly recommend the book which was written as the catalog. I feel we have seen a true landmark exhibit.
Early Van Gogh drawing,1882, pencil, at the Hague
Vincent went through a variety of visual steps I have watched adults and children travel as they learn how to handle an art medium. Working with too few subtle value changes, not recognizing their own personal visual communication skills as strengths. You can see he has power of composition and an interest in texture in this early piece. Now 6 years later after 1000's of drawing you can see that love of texture has evolved into a personal shorthand of dots and dashes, He has experimented with handling a reed pen and milk washes.  His work shows and increased understanding of how to edit his emotion.
V. Van Gogh Drawing "Wheat Fields w/Sheaves in Arles in the Back ground" 1888, Private collection
But it is still Vincent Van Gogh, after a long an arduous journey.  His was a Journey that many artists recognize, they understand the path he trod. This exhibition at the Denver Art Museum was remarkable as it showed the markers of that path, a path many artists recognize because they so frequently set out on it themselves.

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