Sunday, May 21, 2017

Humanities: Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Founder of Expressionism

Dr Abe V Rotor

Noon: Rest from Work (after Millet) 1890, shows Van Gogh's peaceful and romantic mood; lower photo, Landscape showing the fiery and passionate van Gogh, with twisting clouds, trees and fields, in heavy determined strokes.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Vincent Van Gogh founded Expressionism, a radical movement in art that took a different direction - and if I may add, on a higher plane - from the school of Impressionism to which he was a part.

Expressionism was an idea too far out for this colleagues to understand, much less to recognize. So with the world at that time. Vincent was able to sell only one painting in his lifetime out of so many that he could not account. And it was four months before his death in 1890. The price was $80. A century later, van Gogh's Irises set a world record for the sale of a single painting when it was auctioned for $54 million. His paintings are the most sought for by art collectors all around the world, and the most guarded in museums. If you have a van Gogh you must be somebody. A simple sketch would easily fetch a million dollars.

To understand Expressionism, we have to understand Van Gogh's struggle which is portrayed vividly in a novel Lust for Life, which was made into a movie in the early sixties with veteran actor Kirk Douglas as Vincent.

During the 10 years that Van Gogh struggled for self-expression through his art, his brother Theo remained his constant source of spiritual and financial support. It is in his letter to Theo in 1882, that revealed the passion of the artist. Today, seeing Van Gogh's works, is feeling the artist's passion for expression.

Today, many people realize there is a van Gogh within themselves crying out to be heard and recognized - at least understood. Within themselves grows a kind of courage silently brewing while beating a path to a new dimension of thinking and feeling. It is an unending conflict like the world, characterized by episodes of joy and sorrow, euphoria and depression, determination and abandon. Human pathos seeking achievement, unconditionally, unknowingly. Thus, we can see in Vincent's letter to Theo,

"...I want to reach so far that people will say of my work: he (Vincent) feels deeply, he feels tenderly - notwithstanding my so-called roughness, perhaps even because of this... It is true that I am often in the greatest misery, but still there is within me a calm pure harmony and music."

Only later - years, years after Vincent's death - did others begin to hear the music he heard; and it is brave, and tragic and beautiful. (Tashen Posterbook)

Starry Night, popularized by the song, Vincent

Iris, 1889, was auctioned for $54 million, the highest
price for a single painting on record.

Don McLean

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul...
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land.

Now I understand
What you tried to say, to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free:
They would not listen; they did not know how --
Perhaps they'll listen now.

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

Now I understand
What you tried to say, to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free:
They would not listen; they did not know how--
Perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you
But still, your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do--
But I could've told you, Vincent:
This world was never meant
For one as beautiful as you.

Starry, Starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget
Like the strangers that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn, a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know
What you tried to say, to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free:
They would not listen; they're not listening still--
Perhaps they never will.

[Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch Painter]

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