Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Unique and Odd Choices by Vincent van Gogh

September 29, 2015
   One of the profound realizations I have had on the van Gogh tour is seeing the scenes he painted in person. When you are standing on the site you can see all the things he DIDN'T choose to paint. Here is a good example in Arles, in the south of France. Vincent painted several scenes along the Rhone River as it passes through Arles, including "Starry Night On The Rhone," his first pass at one of his most famous paintings (he painted four versions, the last being "Starry Night" which he painted while in the asylum in San Remy).

   As a fellow artist I am always on the lookout for scenes that could make compelling paintings and in Arles, where the Romans built a coliseum and various structures and walls, it all seems so suited to the artist temperament, and although he did a couple paintings that flirted with the edges of that world, he chose some pretty ordinary things, like this bridge access not far from our apartment.

Van Gogh's Bridge In Arles

   This is a very strong painting with a wonderful design and strong values. Here's how the site looks today:

At each site, the town has put up a plaque on the spot that Vincent saw when he did the painting. The guy, at left, is looking at the plaque.

   Yes, it appears the bridge is caged in the 1888 view and is much sexier than the steel, plain car bridge it is today. Here's another view with a closer look at the plaque:

The actual scene of the Arles Bridge today. Note the small tree in the painting
has taken over the entire scene.

      Not far to the right is this scene, which Vincent chose NOT to paint:

Ancient walls in Arles van Gogh chose to ignore

   Today there are genre painters who paint nothing but these quaint, but dynamic scenes of these old facades and walls, but for the most part Vincent gave these scenes a wide berth. He definitely had a unique eye and perhaps some of it is rooted in his Dutch upbringing. Something else I learned is that van Gogh did not think much of "Yankees." There was a painter from the U.S. who was painting nearby and Vincent noted of him that, "He is a Yankee and probably paints much better than most Yankees do, but a Yankee all the same." Van Gogh thought Dodge McKnight was "a boor" and "a slacker" (his word). Funny, huh?

"There is an art of the future and it is going to be so lovely and so young. . .I feel it so strongly."
—Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo



  1. van Gogh was probably right about Yankees. Though some pitchers are said to paint the corners like Rembrandt, what do most baseball players know about painting?

    1. Funny angle Mr.. Gewirtz. Painting the corners, indeed!

  2. The draftsmanship and perspective of this painting seems unique, a departure from the classic Van Gogh style we are used to seeing. Did you see more paintings like this one?

    1. Yes, Fran, we saw some amazing departures from his noted style. He was much more talented than his primitive style would indicate. He did have weak spots, for example he is pretty horrible at drawing children (they look like little adults), but nobody is better at tree branches. The guy had it down and was a master of a certain type of nature. I'll post some more in the next several days so you can get a taste of his skill.


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