Tag Archives: Vincent Van Gogh

Farewell and the Big Sleep

Just took my 3rd morphine of the evening and I’m pretty high, I suppose. Never did that until today when, after eating a few tablespoons of magic bullet liquified “food” I was so sick that I thought I’ll die. Later on I thought I will have my second operation of hernia… Anyway, I was panicking for nothing: it was just my little, plain appendix cancer in its terminal phase…Hence, the 3rd morphine…

But not about my little bodily miseries I wanted to write. Those are not interesting. And I wonder if anything else is. When one’s approaching death, things tend to loose interest, even those you thought were your life, your bread and butter, your flesh and blood…

I remember my first close encounter with the desmise of someone close, that I loved a lot: my maternal grandfather, “Moshu”/ Romanian colloquial for an old, nice relative, as I called him. A very interesting, really, character: immigrating to Germany and then to USA (since in Germany he got in a brawl and had to take off as far as possible) at 17 years old, unemployed and champion of billiard for money, then worker in Philadelphia and Chicago steel factories, then, after saving some $$$, coming back to Transylvania to buy some good land and become a farmer and the father of a large (13 children) family. My mother was the 11 th and one of his personal favorites. Become a “jandarm” (country policeman) and then a “cantor” (professional church singer) at the Sibiu Mitropoly. HAd to give that up at the regretful order of the Mitropolit (who liked him and his superb bass voice) because he was mixing business  with holy singing, being one of the first to import a Ford T model truck and other contraptions to make money for his large family. Become a modest entrepreneur before the WW2. A Russian prisoner at 52, communists confiscated his trucks and business after he returned from Siberia. And so I knew him, also as a favorite grandson, a big man, wise and not embittered too much by the turns of his fate, liking to chat, to tell stories and to drink some. Died when I was 18, in the hot summer of 1975, from cirrhosis, at 84. And, my point, not seeming to care any more for me or anyone else he loved so much before…He had a detachment, an aloofness that was hurtful and confusing and oh, so intriguing when he approached death…I did not understood it then. I start to understand it now…

That’s why, one reason, I write this. What remains, finally, after us? And I’m referring especially at “us”, artists, painters, writers and so on? Do our paintings, drawings etc. carry a meaning? a real, important meaning? Something that was worth our work, our sufferings (even if, the joy of creation kind of compensate already the “sufferings”)?

I must think they do. I must believe a very wise and interesting writer, W. H. Auden (from the Aldoux Huxley exceptional generation), who said it the best:

“Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.”

Soon enough, very probably, I’ll be dead. I certainly wish that my drawings, paintings and a few essays here and there, will find some living humans who will be willing to “break the bread” with me, through my art. My wish is for my children and grandchildren to be tempted by that first, but one never knows…

Danu, 21 June 2015

By the way, W.H. Auden is also the one that said : “A man is a form of life that dreams in order to act and acts in order to dream.” 

And, even more important and interesting and probably the best answer to my questioning:

“What answer to the meaning of existence should one require beyond the right to exercise one’s gifts?” (W.h. Auden)

I had the chance to do just that in the last 18 years or so. I can consider myself a pretty lucky bastard, can I?

The illustration is my last, yet unfinished, painting: it will be called, if I succed to finish it, “The Path” or something like that and I still have to paint a climbing silhouette of a man…


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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The Vanished Van Gogh

Van Gogh and I

It takes no doubt some very big intellectual “cojones” to reveal a Vincent Van Gogh like the one Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith just did, relative recently, by publishing ” Van Gogh:The Life”. This book goes a long way against the tide, against the legend and conventional myth of Vincent Van Gogh. Of course, the myth admits Vincent was a “mad” genius (and essentially, he was, but the accent is on GENIUS not on mad…) but the way the 2 authors extend the madness to, practically,his whole life is, to say the least, unusual, singular.

A weirdo from the beginning to the end, a maniac, a paranoid, quarrelsome, sometimes generous, sometimes blatantly ungrateful human being, the Naifeh & Smith’s Vincent is quite an unpleasant person to deal with. Failure after failure are minutiously described, with an almost scientific accuracy. And these 2 authors are very convincing. Not that…

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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.

Self-portait, Why Do We Do it? (II)

One thing for sure, we rarely do it (if I am to judge by myself) because we are happy. Most of my self portraits are pretty somber or even, let’s say it, crazy. Mad as a matter, one time or another. Some sample from my depression time (about 2000-2003):

6B pencil

6B pencil

Pretty severe, eh? and another one, even more sumber, dark and gloomy…

Black Ink on watercolor paper

Black Ink on watercolor paper

I also did some a bit more funnier, like this parody of a Zen Buddhist Monk:

Autoportrait As a Zen Monk (only difference, my beard is here black, it was  salt and pepper then...)

Autoportrait As a Zen Monk (only difference, my beard is here black, it was salt and pepper then…)

To illustrate my point with famous sample, here it is the celebrissime “Self-Portrait With a cut Ear” by my beloved Vincent. Not a very happy moment when he painted it, eh? (I don’t want to appear more Canadian than I really am but the “eh?” comes handy most of the time…)

The reproduction is pretty lame...

The reproduction is pretty lame…

Finally, without any other sample but Vincent and I (one has to be faithfull to his own blog, has he?) I will post a pretty embarassing photo (at least for a long time; now I consider it simply history; the history of my depression). In fact, it’s a scan not a photo. I did an experiment (better than the drunk classic of people sitting naked on the Xerox machine…) on myself and put my own head – with the eyes open, crazy bastard! – inisde my scanner. Like a lion tamer, trying to deal with the depression-tiger… It didn’t devored my head, I think…

Looking the scanner in the eye or Danu, the scanner tamer

Looking the scanner in the eye or Danu, the scanner tamer

Funny in the scary way, isn’t it? I could start a new art School trend: The Scanned Portrait & Self-Portrait as a Revealing Your True Identity Method… I’m pretty sure there are enough lunatics (of both sexes) around to make it work… But I don’t have the energy…

That’s all for now.

And DON’t put my scan-photo on Facebook, please! (Shall I remind you, folks, that all text and almost all photos on this blog – and post – are copyrighted to me?)


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.