Many years ago, I took a class at Vista College, in Berkeley, Calif., called “Ways of Seeing.” The primary text was the eponymous book by the late John Berger.
Anyway, this was one of the most unusual art appreciation courses I’ve ever taken. We didn’t look so much at eras and schools of art as we did who the intended audience for a given piece might be (almost always a male property owner, by the way). We also learned why cubism grew out of movies (trying to render a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional canvas, in short) and a whole lot more.
We also learned the history of some of the most famous paintings in the world, including what used to be my favorite Van Gogh before the course.
I always liked the movement of this painting, and the use of color. I could imagine walking down that path between the fields and having a picnic.
And then I learned that it was the painting Van Gogh finished right before he took his life. Suddenly, the crows looked menacing. Suddenly, I didn’t want to know what was at the end of that path anymore. My way of seeing the painting was totally changed.
July 29 is the 127th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death, and I didn’t want to let this upcoming anniversary go unobserved. Van Gogh was a brilliant, but troubled, man who left us an amazing legacy of paintings after his death that never sold well during his life.
I have a new favorite Van Gogh painting, a print of which hangs in my home. I was fortunate enough to see it in person when the Musée D’orsay loaned many of its paintings to the DeYoung Museum. It speaks to me of hope.
I spent a lot of time studying the 19th and early 20th century art movements while writing my award-winning novel, In The Eye of The Storm. I will be sharing some information about various artists in the coming days. If you would like to see a previously example, check out my post on Amedeo Modigliani.
If you would like to know more about Vincent Van Gogh’s work and life, I highly recommend this book: Van Gogh in Arles, by Ronald Pickvance.