This week I took the opportunity to view the Van Gogh Seasons exhibition at the NGV, Melbourne. What an extraordinary man Vincent Van Gogh was. What a blessing to humankind! His astute and sensitive nature was an unusual beacon during the time of his life (1853-1890) and, even now, his thinking and his art provide light to the forerunners of human society.
It is impossible to view Van Gogh’s art and read his quotes without gaining an appreciation for his depth of character, spirituality and emotional integrity. Because I am a writer, I will focus on the written quotes displayed throughout this exhibition – extracts taken from the artist’s copious letters written to his brother, Theo.
Prior to becoming an artist, Vincent explored a number of different vocations including art dealer, preacher and lay-evangelist. During these years, his love of art, nature and spirituality were refined and sharpened such that, once he chose to create images on canvas, he was able to ‘see’ what needed to be seen.
His work has an amazing sense of the essence of place and, looking at his art, evokes a genuine experience of insight and emotion. The light, the color, the lines and brushstrokes all initiate a strong sensory response; it is possible to enter into the places represented on canvas and smell the smells, feel the temperature and moisture in the air. Van Gogh had the masterful ability of enhancing reality through his art, just as a good fiction writer can do the same with words if they are a talented wordsmith.
Let me share with you some of his quotes regarding the seasons:
‘It is something to be deep in the snow in winter, to be deep in the yellow leaves in autumn, to be deep in the ripe wheat in summer, to be deep in the grass in spring,’ (Van Gogh 1885)
‘Melting snow was falling. I got up in the night to look at the landscape – never, never has nature appeared so touching and sensitive to me’ (1889)
‘If one looks closely, one sees that there’s a kind of gospel on the first day of spring’ (1883)
‘I myself almost don’t know which season I like best; I believe all of them, equally well’ (1873)
And now, let’s consider some of his thinking that goes a little deeper so that we may understand the type of man Van Gogh became:
‘And yet it was only while painting that I noticed how much light there still was in the darkness’ (1882)
‘It requires a certain dose of inspiration, a ray from on high which doesn’t belong to us, to do beautiful things’ (1890)
‘One must work long and hard to arrive at the truthful.’ (1882)
‘ … where people say of my work, that man feels deeply and that man feels subtly’ (1882)
Thank you Vincent Van Gogh for the heritage of wisdom you have given to us through your art and your writing. We honour you and the life you led.