08 August 2011

Van Hoch

I'm not sure I like most of Van Gogh. His early stuff is crude; he couldn't draw particularly well; and, apparently, he didn't know how to mix his oils well enough to keep the colors from darkening over the years. Some of his early landscapes and peasantscapes—ho hum—will probably fade to black in the next few decades unless properly restored.

That said, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which collects hundreds of his works, is worthy if only for this:

I'd seen the Starry Night and several of the Sunflowers paintings and all those wonderful self-portraits (both with and without pipes and hats for props—including the ones where his eyes seem to burn holes right through the canvases) before—all of which I enjoyed. But nothing—Nothing—prepared me for his Irises. Nothing can, not pictures online or even reproductions.

I walked into the gallery where it hung, and when it caught my eye, I felt the a shuddering in my breast. I waited a second to let the air and blood pulse back into their respective cavities. I edged closer to it to see what had caused that affect. I examined it up close, then stepped back. Helpless tears of joy and tears of beauty fought to see which could be first out of my eyes as I took it in. It was rapturous. I stood there, transfixed, for nigh on half and hour. I couldn't walk away. It commanded the room, the gallery.

It was like all his early stuff—everything he had, essentially, taught himself—had come together and congealed into the expression of that one perfect painting, the flowering (sic) of a career—however brief. The harmony of the colors, the melody of the lines, the organization of the brushwork, the proportions. The urgency. The passion. The madness. The genius. It's all there.

I know it's only a picture of a pot of flowers, but dammit this is a great work of art. It's on the verge of breaking away from the bounds of representation—albeit impressionistic—into the realm of pure expression. The closer you get, the better you can see this. Beholding it was one of the absolute pinnacles of my trip as it was an absolute pinnacle of the artist's career.

Here you can find an interactive Flash of the picture. Get close. Closer. Scroll around. Then back out. Then go in again.

Now go see it.


Frances Madeson said...

I broke down and sobbed in that museum, more there than at Yad Vashem if that makes any sense at all. As I remember it, I told myself it was the cumulative effect of the exhibit as opposed to any one painting. But as I look at this one now through your irises, who knows, maybe this was the trigger. It's the darkened black curly lines. The effect is almost cartoonish in its eroticism, the tangle of stark desire exposed. Invagination imaginatively depicted.

I'm loving these posts. Your eye, your eyes, such great taste. SO GLAD YOU'RE BACK!

Randal Graves said...

That's the problem with even the finest reproductions; it's just not the same & now you've reminded us of that you cheeky bastard.

Jim H. said...

FM: Wonderful interp. Painting left me speechless. Don't quite know why. Interesting that we had similar responses, though.

RG: Yes. But it can be a reminder. 'Course digitization is something else altogether.