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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Painting of the Month (42) February 2014: Van Gogh

This is an iconic image by one of the most revered artists of all time - Vincent Van Gogh. At first glance you may think there's not much to it but come closer and Bazza will enlighten you.....
Wheat Field Under Threatening Skies also known as Wheat Field with Crows.
 Painted in July1890, the month in which he died, by Vincent Van Gogh.
Many people would recognise this as Van Gogh's work even if they had never seen it before. The thickly applied paint, individual brush-strokes and subject matter are all typical of his art. It is thought that this may have been the last picture he ever painted but it was not; it was certainly one of the last few. It is well known that he suffered with mental instability for much of his life and it is easy to define turbulence and impending doom in this picture. In which direction are the crows flying? It's hard to say, isn't it? Look closely at the central path which leads one into the painting. Where is is it going? It's going nowhere; it doesn't disappear so much as stop. Dead. This is a subject that would usually be enriching and uplifting but Vincent has managed to convey his chaotic state of mind. He took his own life shortly afterwards. In a way it is like looking into another person's thought processes and yet it is 'only' a landscape painting. I find that fact incredible.
The impending summer storm depicted here has sometimes been interpreted as Vincent's suicide note but, of course, all interpretation of art is very subjective.
This was one of a series of wheatfield paintings that Van Gogh made in this unusual elongated format 50cm by 100cm.
Footnote: Americans usually pronounce his surname as 'Van Go', Britons as 'Van Goff' and the Dutch (who should know best) sound like they are filling their mouth with phlegm when they pronounce his name!
I promise that my next post will be something more cheerful!


All Consuming said...

Aye I love Vincent. His work is sublime, I went to Amsterdam when I was at art college and saw many of his paintings in the flesh so to speak, and I would urge anyone who can get there themselves to do so too, they are quite spectacular in real life. A sadly tortured soul, yet as is often the case, a wealth of beauty sprang from that painful source.

bazza said...

Yes, I visited the Van Gogh gallery in Amsterdam quite a while ago - great place. It is sad how many artists in all disciplines seemed to have had very difficult lives and eventually self-destructed.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I read recently where they are disputing whether Vincent actually killed himself or was accidentally shot by a child.

I love his work and over the years have had two opportunities to view his work at the wonderful Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I always enjoy your excellent observations.

bazza said...

Hi Arleen. Most paintings are much better seen for real rather than in print but this is particularly true of Vincent's work. I haven't been to the Philadelphia gallery (we were passing through and just had time to see the Liberty Bell!)
Thank's for your kind words.

John said...

Hi Bazza,
Van whatever you want to call him ;), was a tortured soul and it's a shame that he only got recognition after he died. My favourite is "Starry night", at least, I think that's what it's called!

bazza said...

Hello John. Starry Night became very popular after Don Maclean's song Vincent contained the lyric "Starry, starry night. Paint your palette blue and grey"
His popularity is enduring and wide-spread and his work appeals to all ages; "Perhaps they'll listen now"!

Sherry Ellis said...

I always enjoy your insights into artwork. I don't think I'll ever look at this painting the same way, again.

bazza said...

Hi Sherry. Thanks for those kind words. I think most of the arts are better understood and enjoyed with some insight; that applies to poetry, painting, music etc. I have found that if one studies what others have said, after a while you find yourself doing your own analysis - I'm sure you must have found that with music!

klahanie said...

Bazza, old chap,

Yay to your robot thingy being gone!

Of course, I can no longer see the painting while I comment. However, my memory is almost okay.

Van Gogh, indeed, a troubled soul. No mention of an ear from me.


bazza said...

Gary, if you had not said I wouldn't know it was still there. I thought I got rid of it a year ago!
I'm glad you didn't mention the ear. I think we got away with it.....

old pajamas said...


For someone who has never been able to look at paintings, to go beneath just the very surface, with any real comfort (or ability), I thank you for this introduction to a picture that because it is so ubiquitous goes often unappreciated.


bazza said...

Hi Pyjamas. It's true that familiarity with anything can lead to it being unconsidered. There is always much more to a painting than what one sees!