Sunday, May 13, 2012

Van Gogh In the Rain

It's a good thing Philadelphia Museum of Art makes you buy special exhibit tickets in advance. If we didn't have a (financial) commitment to go to the Van Gogh exhibit, my friends and I certainly would've postponed it for one more week. A lovely April Sunday jaunt to the art museum was marred by a downpour of rain. And it was cold, nonetheless! Of course, museums are perfect places for rainy days, but we had hopes of walking around the city and sitting at cafes, in the l'espirit de France.

So, the museum had a special "Van Gogh Up Close" exhibit, which featured his artwork that honed into details of nature - flowers, blades of grass, ear of wheat or a landscape.

I love to see the Van Gogh paintings in person and I have to pull back every natural instinct I have to touch the canvas lest the museum guards see you. Each stroke leaves a raised layer of oil. You want your fingers to enjoy the sensation your eyes are experiencing. Now that I am taking art classes, I'm viewing these so differently as a novice painter. I'm making note of color blends, of size and style of brushes used and the strokes. I see layers and wonder what was underneath and what was he trying to change from his original intent.

The writer in me looks at the painting inside the frame and imagines the man behind it. There were a few paintings that I loved, but the one that moved me to tears was Rain. On its own, it's just a painting, kinda dull colors compared to other work. However, the story behind this painting is that he painted this view from his clinic window after his breakdown. He painted this view over and over. He disregarded the bars on his window, and showed the open field that lay beyond it. There's a muddy track across the field where the workers walked. The mind and imagination of the artist goes beyond what is reality to himself. He's inside, the fields are outside. His room is probably dank and damp, especially when it rains. Now I wanted to touch the painting even more, as if to connect to him over the centuries. Times change, but people are the same.

I've seen Van Gogh in other museums (Musee D'Orsay, Metropolitan, National Gallery), and I've got calendars and coffee table books and what have you. But it's always exciting to see his work again and just reflect on the artist.