Tag Archives: Van Gogh

Homage to Vincent

A dear friend of mine saw a reproduction of the Almond Blossom that she liked in a photo of my room and I did a “copy” of it (copy  between ” ” since I’m not capable of 100 % copying another painting). I don’t know if I did a good job, I hope, and I let you be the judges of that:

My variant - as an homage and trying to learn his technique - of Vincent's Almond Blossom

My variant – as an homage and trying to learn his technique – of Vincent’s Almond Blossom

Shifting Perceptions About Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh and I

It’s kind of funny. A few posts away I was writing about PERCEPTIONS.

And how everything is a question of perception…

Well, my perceptions about Vincent changed. Of course, they changed for a long time and will still change but now I’m talking about some DRAMATIC  shifting in my perception of Van Gogh. It won’t make much difference for anybody else but myself but for me, a life long Vincent Van Gogh unconditioned fan, it does…

First, let’s say that the reading of Naifeh & Smith, ”Van Gogh:The Life” is the cause of this shift. I did not finished the book (900 p and more, common!), I just browsed here and there, the most interesting periods of Van Gogh life (in my perception, of course), the Antwerpen period, Paris, Auvers sur Oise… But that was enough to have a different, less idealized and a lot less flattering image of Vincent……

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How to Decide if a Biography of Van Gogh deserves to be Read?

Recently, a good friend gave me the gift of an unknown, for me, biography of Van Gogh, “Vincent Van Gogh – A Life” by Philip Callow, 1990, at Elephant Paperback, Chicago.

Since TIME is of a very sensitive nature for me (as, maybe, it should be for everyone since it’s impossible to buy it or re-generate it…) I have to come with new ways of choosing my readings. Van Gogh being, still, after cancer healing and nutrition and meditation books, a preferred and important reading subject for me.

It took me cca 5 minutes to decide that Callow’s bio of Van Gogh wasn’t worth reading, at least, not by me. Maybe if you don’t know anything about Van Gogh (or just the media gossip, here and there) this book will be readable. But for me, or someone who read most of Van Gogh biographies, or at least, the important ones, this is an amateur, dilettant, bio. How did I arrive at this conclusion?

Well, first of all, I’ve browsed the bibliography. Aside from Vincent Letters (which, of course, are a sine qua non of ANY biography of Van Gogh) only very few of the important, interesting biographers of Vincent were there: Marc Edo Tralbaut. Only 2 other big names, but with general works, Herbert Read,  with “The Meaning Of Art” and Rainer Maria Rilke with “Letters to Cézanne” (as I’ve mentioned, works not directly related to Vincent).

So, this was a good hint this was only a commercial, conventional biography of Van Gogh, one written without the preparation or the special skills needed (the author “studied engineering and the teaching of English before turning to writing” ). Well, I’m not a stickler against engineers or English Teachers turned to writing. I think everybody deserves a chance.

But then I came to the supreme test, for me, of a good biography of Vincent. I’ve read the last chapter, the one about the death of Vincent and, eventually, his immediate post-mortem events. And there, without any doubt, I concluded that Philip Callow’s bio was, for me, worthless. No need to read, again and again, the conventional ( and false) legend of the death of Vincent. The “suicide” (taken as a given, no doubt, no inquiry of the question; of course, one cannot judge a 1990 bio of Vincent with the  StevenNaifeh and Gregory White Smith’s 2011 bio in mind, even if, for me, it’s not feasible any more; it’s kind of branded in my mind!) the good “friend” Paul Gachet doing his thing as a “family” doctor, etc. (Gachet wasn’t really a friend of Vincent, not at the end of his life; after some authors, who did extensive research on the matter, he was even a shameless profiteer not only of Van Gogh – who was his “profiteer masterpiece” though – but of all the Impressionists and post-impressionists who crossed his path: Pissarro, Monet (the “good” doctor even had the main responsibility in Monet’s wife untimely death) etc.; but that’s an entirely different subject…) Anyway, reading the chapter I was kind of bored and kind of disgusted of the conventionality and dulness of it.  Not to mention the conventional “Theo” dying after 6 months thing.  Lets say the truth, Theo’s death was, of course, precipitated, by Vincent’s. But he died of 3rd state syphilis. And their relations where a lot more complex and interesting than the conventional “loving” brother thing. (Let’s say that Vincent could be, really, sometimes, a pain in the arse for his family…) Some pretty good dual biographies are out there that really deserves to be read…

When I thought my time was quasi-infinite I’ve come across a lot of quirky , poetical, far-fetched biographies or writings about Vincent. But, at least, they were not boring and dull. So, if you came across this particular biography, do not read it. You’ll waste precious time. Even the 60-70 years old “Lust for Life” by Irving Stone (a serious biographer and writer) is better as a biography of Vincent. In fact, that’s a a classic. And if you have the time to read only ONE biography of Vincent Van Gogh, go with Naifeh and White Smith’s bio. It’s the best to date (and I assume it will be for the next 25 years at least…)

By the way, they don't pay me to advertise their book. The book advertise itself, by it's outstanding value...

By the way, they don’t pay me to advertise their book. The book advertise itself, by it’s outstanding value…

I hope my little tips of how to decide if a book about Vincent deserves reading would help you to gain time. Because, I know it now, time is the most precious thing you have. Don’t waste it.

123 years since Vincent Van Gogh died

Just a reminder and a moment of silence to mark the passing of Vincent, this tortured soul who distiled such beauty from his torment…

Vincent as a Zen Buddhist Monk. One of my favorite self-portraits of Vincent.

Vincent as a Zen Buddhist Monk. One of my favorite self-portraits of Vincent.

Special thanks to authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith for their splendid biography of Vincent, one of the most comprehensive, well written and probably true of all books ever written on Vincent’s life (and there are plenty!)

Personally, they made me understood better all I knew about Vincent (especially from the less known periods of his life, the early years as a painter and the “suicide/ death” of the painter. We doubt now very much that Vincent commited suicide himself (not that it matters much…he was prone to suicide, sooner of later) and their  version of his demise, as an accident Vincent accepted as fate, is a lot more believable that all the corny bullshit we usually read or hear concerning his bitter end.

Self-portait, Why Do We Do it?

I counted about 37-38 self -portraits Vincent Van Gogh painted of himself. There are only 2-3 images of him, painted by others, one a regular portrait made by Van Rappard, another one that I know, a sketch by Toulouse Lautrec… Why this proportion? and why, finally, why did he (or Rembrandt or any other painter) would paint self-portraits?

At the Easel Van gogh self-portrait

At the Easel Van gogh self-portrait

One reason (valid for Van Gogh and for Rembrandt – the two greatest Dutch painters…) would be the ready availability of the “model”. You just need a mirror and here you are, the model is ready to be painted… and Vincent complained constantly about the difficulty to find models…

Of course, this is a rather mundane reason even if a valid and true one. Usually, even when initially this was the reason, the results are almost always more than that… You want it or not, when you do your self -portrait something more gets through, always… Consciously or not, you do more than just making a portrait. You witness a definite moment of your life, you consciously or unconsciously put more in it than the physical features of your mug…

Self Portrait said "a flamenches"

Self Portrait said “a flamenches”

When you consciously testify of your life (the thing André Malraux said it’s the best you can do with you life, “testify of your life” (témoigner de son vécu”), the results are always interesting. It could be a great painting (or not) but it will always be an interesting psychological document.

Yesterday, for instance, I did discovered in the cupboards where my father keeps just about everything (which is an annoying but sometimes useful habit) an old self-portrait of mine which I was convinced was lost. As so many of my paintings and drawings which are sold (for peanuts, usually), given, lost and thrown away or destroyed … Not only mine; weren’t the parents of the now famous Dr. Felix Rey from St. Remy de Provence filling a hole in their chicken house with the portrait Vincent made after the good doctor?

But this one I found again and in a surprisingly good state, almost perfectly preserved after about 38 years (a life time!). Which is a praise and an encouragement to use the tempera technique, a technique I liked then…

Here it is:

Self portrait nov 75

Self portrait nov 75

(to be continued)

The pleasure of sketching

I’ve sketched this little boy during the Bromont Art Symposium… Was it 2003? 2004? I don’t remember any more. But I know I did a lot of sketching then, waiting for a “collector” of sorts to come and buy everything…anything… Usually,  they didn’t bother but eventually, I still covered my expenses and left there with a small profit… Danu, the capitalist…

The little guy from Bromont

Anyway, recently I’ve seen some sketches by Watteau, this “artiste maudit” avant-la-lettre, dead at 37, like Rafael, like Modigliani and Van Gogh and many others who “kicked the bucket” at this fatidic age… I was amazed by the spontaneity, the vigor and, at the same time, the exquisite delicacy of his drawings. I could only imagine him, drawing. All the pleasure that sketching would have brought in his poor life, all the joy. Painter of the so called “fêtes galantes” of the end of the 17th and beginning of the 17th century in France, associated with “joie de vivre” and eroticism, he was quite a frugal man. Delicate, discretely erotic but not at all as Fragonard or Boucher. I would say I appreciate him even more for that… and he was a great draftsman, just as good as Bruegel and Rembrandt and Rubens. It is not rare to be able to tell more about an artist looking at his/her drawins. No “comission” for that… Just the artist, unadulterated,  “pure”…

Here it is one of his drawings, and a lot more and better are at Louvres…

Sketches by Watteau

The pleasure to draw, to sketch is a fascinating subject, for me, for I have an orgasmic pleasure doing it. I think others have this too… So I come back with more…

Copyright © Dan Iordache, 2012


Some do it and some don’t. There are some very good, excellent, artists who make a living with their art. And there are also some very good, excellent artists who don’t. There are out there some mediocre and even worst artists who do it. And some mediocre, kitsch artists who don’t. There isn’t one discernible pattern. It’s just like the relationship status of some of our friends on Facebook. It’s COMPLICATED.
Oh, well!
In the past, there where staggering examples in the art history of excellent artists, even geniuses, who were also marketing geniuses: Picasso and Salvador Dali, come to mind. They had their “misery” period (usually, at the beginning of their career) when they were yet to be famous and they literally suffered the indignities of being hungry, of living in slums or shady neighborhoods, etc. La “Ruche” (the “Beehive”) where Picasso and many other later “geniuses” like Modigliani, Braque, Kisling and Soutine and others lived, is famous. And not for the luxuries this living accommodation provided…

Picasso, by hard work, ambition, marketing talent and a good deal of sheer luck, made it. He lived most of the rest of his long life as a rich, famous artist. One as famous that, as he put it, “if he would spit on a canvas and sign it” some eager art merchant or other would pay it’s weight in gold and sold it for even more to some snob, dumb, indecently rich, “collector”…

Modigliani, in exchange, did not do it. He didn’t have the marketing gene or his addictions to alcohol and drugs were too strong? He was short in his “luck” ? Who can tell? As I said, it’s complicated. (The fascinating case of Vincent Van Gogh is very special and I will write about it in another post; this blog is called, after all, Van Gogh and I…).
Then, there are the paradoxical examples. There is Rembrandt, full of luck, genius and even an excellent marketer at the beginning of his career, when he was famous and rich, but then ended up poor and broke.

Close up of one of the last self portrait of Rembrandt

Or Pascin, who was making good money and was on his way up in June 1930, when he killed himself in a legendary and atrocious manner…

Pascin, in 1923, durant les Crazy Years in Paris when Hemingway met him

It’s complicated, as I already said it and there is practically no steady, discernible rule.(Not by me, anyway…)
Maybe “luck” (or the lack of it) is one… I’m not sure. I don’t know.
What I do know is that if the art market is so chaotic and, basically, arbitrary (give me a good marketing expert and a few hundreds of thousands of $ at least and I will make you a genius from a bum!) , to some artists, life isn’t. Making his or her living as an artist is a good thing, if you do. And it’s not a total disaster if you don’t.
Maybe it’s sounds corny but living as an artist, being an artist, it’s a reward in itself. You do it because you love it and you cannot do otherwise. You are happy while drawing or painting or writing or composing music, etc. And if you also make your living out of  it’s, finally, irrelevant.  As long as you are happy and don’t worry too much about it.
It could happen to you too, as it did for Vincent: you can become famous and rich, POST-MORTEM…which is a good thing, for your heirs…

And here I am, playing Picasso…