van Gogh at the Kröller-Müller
April 7, 2012
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!