Saturday 9 August 2014

Van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum - 2

We have visited the Van Gogh museum several times. His paintings are so massively reproduced that I was a bit reluctant to go to the museum again, in fact Ken decided to go for a walk around Vondelpark instead.

Once I got in however,  the tea towels, the coasters and the mugs were forgotten - the paintings just took over and their power overwhelmed.

The Bridge in the Rain, (after Hiroshige), 1887

This painting illustrates Van Gogh's interest in Japanese art. He painted this scene after a woodcut by Utagawa Hiroshige, which he had in his own collection. The influence of Japanese prints remains visible in his later works, especially in his strong outlines and colour contrasts and in the way he cropped his compositions. He also used brighter colours than the originals.

In this painting the borders are filled with calligraphic figures borrowed from other Japanese prints.

The Pink Peach Tree, 1888

Springtime in Arles in the south of France. The peach tree in bloom seems to be full of an inner fire. It's a peach tree but also the burning bush, the sign from heaven. The sheer reality of it bubbles out of the blue in massed clogged mountains of pink paint.

Wheatfield under Thunderclouds, 1890 
Van Gogh painted a large number of landscapes with wheatfields. He wrote to Theo about two of these works: 'They depict vast, distended wheatfields under angry skies, and I deliberately tried to express sadness and extreme loneliness in them'. But also: 'I am almost certain that these canvases illustrate what I cannot express in words, that is, how healthy and reassuring I find the countryside'.

Landscape at Twilight, 1890

'A crepuscular effect: two pear trees, wholly black, against a yellowing sky, with grain-fields; and, in the purple background, the castle, enfolded by dark foliage' - this is how Van Gogh described the landscape he painted shortly after sunset in the surrounding of the chateau at Auvers.

The Harvest, 1888

The vast landscape has been built up in horizontal planes; in the foreground lies the harvested wheat, while in the background the purple-blue mountains rise up into the turquoise air. Van Gogh was not interested in simply painting a pretty, sun-drenched landscape, but in capturing the essence of country life. So, the various stages of the harvest are depicted in the central plane: there is a haystack, ladders, several carts and, to the right, a man with a pitchfork. Although they appear rather small, Van Gogh considered both the farmers and their labours to be an essential part of his picture.

The Yellow House, 1888

This painting depicts the house that Van Gogh stayed in while in Arles. The view is also an exploration of colour contrast: 'what a powerful sight, those yellow houses in the sun and then the unforgettable clarity of the blue sky', he wrote to Theo.

Wheatfield with Reaper, 1889

Butterflies and Poppies, 1890

'We like Japanese painting. We are influenced by it - all Impressionists have that in common'.

Wheatfield with Crows, 1890

One of his last paintings The dramatic, cloudy sky filled with crows and the cut-off path are obvious portents of his coming end.


  1. Wheatfield under Thunderclouds and Landscape at Twilight are my favourites of this batch. I don't know what size these are, but they would work at any scale. Van Gogh is one of those artists for whom I would like to take a year off in order to study him and his work.

    1. They are my favourites too, Olga, but also the Wheatfield with Crows. They are big paintings: both the ones you mention are 50x100cm. The three plus the one of the Tree Roots (in the previous post) all together on one wall - they looked very impressive grouped together like that.

      And, I also agree about Van Gogh's work.

    2. Strangely enough I was thinking about Van Gogh's paintings of wheat fields and of crows. I was driving across the Lambourn Downs where there are fields sloping up like the sides of a shallow bowl. One had been harvested and was covered in crows until I drove past, when they rose as one. Van Gogh would have captured it beautifully.

    3. How lovely. I love it when things come together like this.