Vincent Van Gogh is one of the artists. You know what I mean; One of the people who get lumped together when people think of artists. I’m talking Picasso, Monet, Dalí, Warhol, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh… See? He just fits. But like many of the greats on this list his life was less than ideal, and to say he was mentally tortured would be the understatement of the century(s).
NGV International in Melbourne has delivered to the citizens yet another stunning collection (I’m looking at you Edgar Degas and Viktor & Rolf), this time featuring the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings to have ever made it to us in Australia. Myself and Kat from Life As A Vagabond headed on over to NGV to see what could very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The exhibition opens with notes, sketches and quotes from the master himself. At this point, I’m taken aback to my high school art class where we studied him, and I remembered just how sad I was hearing about the known details of his life. Then and now I was heartbroken by how such a clearly brilliant individual’s mental instability was ignored to the point of death. Obviously, the understanding of mental illness was extremely limited back then, but it just makes you think of all the people who suffered a tortured existence, both then and now, with no or limited access to help.
I was also surprised to find out how heavily he was influenced by Japanese art, namely woodblock prints, which he collected wherever and however he could.
A Life On Film
The next antechamber opens with a film of the seasons of Van Gogh’s life, narrated by film critic David Stratton. The theme of The Seasons becomes clear here – The majority of the exhibition is to cover Van Gogh’s ten-year career in the spotlight, highlighting how the seasons are shown in his life and his mental health. The short film was beautifully produced, and I highly recommend you don’t skip it.
13 Facts You Possibly Didn’t Know About Vincent Van Gogh
1. Vincent van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands. He was named after both his stillborn brother who was born a year before him, as well as his grandfather.
2. Van Gogh was 27 years old when he painted his first artwork.
3. His brother Theo supported Van Gogh financial so he could continue painting.
4. When Van Gogh began painting he was too poor to be able to pay models, so he mainly painted peasants, flowers, landscapes and himself instead.
5. Van Gogh suffered from a disorder called temporal lobe epilepsy, which can see the sufferer having unprovoked seizures. These seizures are not necessarily physical shaking/fits but can be manifested as a feeling of déjà vu, jamais vu, fear, euphoria, depersonalization, anger, confusion, etc.
6. It is not known for sure what happened when Vincent injured his ear, and there are conflicting theories. One is that during a seizure Van Gogh became angered and attacked his friend and housemate Paul Gauguin, who tried to fend of Van Gogh with his sword and accidentally cut off his ear lobe. Another theory is that Van Gogh intentionally cut his ear with a razor blade after an argument with Gauguin.
7. Van Gogh painted his most famous piece “The Starry Night” whilst he was in an asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France.
8. In just ten years Van Gogh created approximately 900 paintings.
9. Van Gogh wrote over 800 letters during his life, with the majority of them being to his brother and best friend Theo.
10. Vincent only sold one painting during his lifetime (The Red Vineyard), and only became famous after his death.
11. His most expensive painting, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, is valued at over $151.2 million dollars (after inflation). Van Gogh painted it in 1890 and it was sold for this price to Japanese business person Ryoei Saito in 1990.
12. Van Gogh’s death was originally believed to be suicide after he shot himself in the chest in a wheat field in Auvers, France, but new information may show that he was actually murdered by one or two local teenagers.
13. His brother Theo was at Van Gogh’s side when he died, and he said that Vincent’s last words were “La tristesse durera toujours,” which translates to “the sadness will last forever.”
10 Years Of Madness and Genius
From here you take a journey through the life of Vincent, his trials and tribulations, and of course his art. I will my favourite pieces speak for themselves below, and if you would like to see all the photos from the day you can find them here.
The Unexpected Math Behind Starry Night
In researching Van Gogh I came across this really fascinating TED Ed video by math artist/teacher Natalya St. Clair and animator Avi Ofer, detailing the unexpected math that can be found in Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Instead of me rambling on about it here, you can watch the video below.
All Good Art Must End In A Snack
After Kat and I had our fill of amazing art and tragic history, we headed down to Southbank to enjoy that last rays of sun and of course, some ice cream from Trampoline Gelato.
What: Van Gogh And The Seasons Exhibition
When: Until July 9th, 2017
Where: NGV International – 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
How Much: $28
Book: Buy tickets here