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van Gogh at the Kröller-Müller

April 7, 2012

van Gogh still life taken by me standing in front of the original

No, sadly enough the above image is not my new still life. It is an early van Gogh.

I treated myself to a midweek excursion to a museum I’d wanted to visit for years, – the Kröller Müller  in the Veluwe area of Holland. It is a 3 hour train journey from up here in the north. I found a good hotel deal and took off on Thursday.

It is a lovely museum, if you are into museums. I don’t know what was wrong with me that day, but all the glass, white walls and modern art were oppressive. (Whereas in England and Scotland, the often historical buildings which house their art museums are magical just to enter.)

I went mainly for painting inspiration. I wanted to be taught by 19th and 20th century masters how to handle paint in a more spontaneous way. Well, the only moments of awe or magic I had were in front of the van Goghs.

Helene Kröller-Müller started collecting his paintings early on, and these less known works are just so beautiful. (Amazingly, this museum allows you to photograph the art as long as you don’t use flash. I think they just gave up the fight, how can they take everyone’s iPhones away?!).

So the photo above was made in front of a real van Gogh, the canvas bearing the marks of his hand and eye and heart. It was extremely moving to be in the presence of this work, it is so sensitive and full of love for the object, for life, for colors.

The way of working is delicate but strong, and the strokes, though stylized have not yet evolved to those whirling impasto strokes characteristic of his later work. I must say though, that some areas of some of the paintings were so thickly applied, they looked sculptural. This is completely alien to my way of working,  I really have to get my head around it before I can experiment with it myself.

Luckily I just signed up for a full day workshop on how to handle paint more spontaneously. I’m looking forward to loosening up!

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2 Responses to “van Gogh at the Kröller-Müller”

  1. decorartuk Says:

    These onions are really nice and I love the little strokes that give away the “secret” that this is actually van Gogh. To me it’s unbelievable that so much colour merges into something that we can recognize. I don’t think I would have enough courage painting lets say a carrot to use blue and red, and green; carrots are orange, right? Hopefully you can post some advice after your workshop?

    And as for museums , I do agree that museums in the UK are very good – they obviously know how to create that special aura.

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Yes, seeing the paintings was awesome. Up close they looked like a jumble of strokes, and far away they just came together. I need to learn to see this way.

      I’ll look for some of my oil pastels, similar to approach of the van Gogh I posted (in all humility, I am just referring to the break up of strokes in unexpected colours). If I find a good one I’ll post it and try to explain how I broke out of a ‘carrots are orange’ colour palette. I think the freedom with colours comes with using them in different media over time. And I’m sure I’ll learn something at the workshop as well! stay tuned.


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