I admit, reading this sparked a little obsession with Vincent Van Gogh (VVG) the past little bit. This book has been on my shelf FOR YEARS. It’s pretty thick, and though I’ve always insisted I wanted to read it, the visual heft has made me shy away, working instead to make sure I get current reading for book club and trending authors done first.
Hello, Pandemic. No. Excuse. Now.
Written in 1934, within 50 years of his death, this account of his life is riveting for an art history lover/studier. This reads beautifully.
The chapters are each a different city where he lived and worked, and I Google searched each location to view the works he painted as the author was describing them. I’ve been enthralled by VVG’s works as long as I can remember and visited the VanGogh Museum in Amsterdam in 1982 when it was in a smallish house. The colors, the texture, the energy coming off the canvas has been, and still is, irresistibly life-giving to me.
Having studied Richard Rohr’s (RR) works for a couple years, I was especially intrigued to see his theology expressed through these thoughts and words of VVG:
….”The fields that push up the corn, and the water that rushes down the ravine, the juice of the grape, and the life of a man as it flows past him, are all one and the same thing. The sole unity in life is the unity of rhythm. A rhythm to which we all dance; men, apples, ravines, ploughed fields, carts among the corn, houses, horses, and the sun. The stuff that is in you, Gauguin, will pound through a grape tomorrow, because you and a grape are one. When I paint a peasant laboring in the field, I want people to feel the peasant flowing down into the soil, just as the corn does, and the soil flowing up into the peasant. I want them to feel the sun pouring in to the peasant, into the field, the corn, the plough, and the horses, just as they all pour back into the sun. When you begin to feel the universal rhythm in which everything on earth moves, you been to understand life. That alone is God.” p. 412
With these words and this theology, I see his paintings anew.
Upon finishing, we rented the 1956 movie based on the novel starring Kirk Douglas. Although a little clunky, the movie is a fairly good rendition of the book. I have a HUGE VVG biography on the shelf and a list of other movies to watch. Perhaps a virtual visit to the museum, as well.
Incidentally, in his daily meditative emails, RR is using a VVG painting this week. Life: we are all one.
5/5 stars for bringing VVG to LIFE. If you are not an art history nerd like myself, 4/5ish. Would be a great mini series.
Sounds great – so smart to look up the paintings while reading. We went to VVG museum in Amsterdam a few years ago – fabulous!
VVG captured the Christ soaked world so beautifully, so often. When someone asks me what my favorite museum is I always respond with Amsterdam VVG. Now fingers crossed that the DIA will open by June 21 and the Van Gogh exhibit will not be covid-ed.