Listening To Van Gogh

Recently the Bank of America sponsored a viewing of Van Gogh’s art at the new wing of The Museum of Modern Art, in New York City. This  commentary, written in response to a a similar exhibit a few years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has, I believe, relevance for viewing and responding to this great artist’s work. I would like your comments, if you care to share them.

thanks, Jerry Gargiulo

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is getting more crowded these days. Is it the good exhibits, i.e. the Russian Impressionists collection, collection from the Holy Land, the Van Gogh exhibit? Perhaps busy New Yorkers and those from the close environs simply need a respite from the economic hailstorm that besets most people today. Stock market discussions and “making it” seem to have replaced those on literature, or political philosophy or art. Could the singleminded nature of economic discussions be causing people to search for a place where the human experiment is more comprehensively expressed? Are they seeking a quiet place where one can see how others, particularly great others, saw the world? Do they want to know how these great others changed what they saw, in order to see what they knew was really there? The French Impressionists studied light and how it creates the objects we see; artifacts from the Holy Land impressed me as being more ritualistically complex then one would have expected; Van Gogh, the present exhibit, creates, I believe, a new world for us to see. (Variously appreciated he is beautiful “Vincent” according to Don McLean’s poignant song of a few years ago; Stranger On The Earth, according to a perceptively written psychological biography by Albert Lubin, M.D.)

Van Gogh, a man of the most enormous energy, dead at thirty-seven, is being discovered again as an artist of towering proportions. What is it in this somewhat “mad” artist that beckons us?

The son of a Protestant minister, Van Gogh grew up in Holland where order, cleanliness and work were most rewarded. He was utterly dedicated, for a good portion of his life, to helping the poor, spending time as a preacher and clearly identifying with the common people, particularly miners with whom he worked for a short period of his life.

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