Thursday, March 26, 2009

And Now for Something Totally Different

I've been reading Christian fiction at almost breakneck speed -- and I decided to take a break. Last night, my wife and I watched a YouTube video that combined paintings of Van Gogh with Don McLean's "Vincent." It was cool. I wandered over to the bookshelf and spotted the guidebook to the Van Gogh Museum I bought when I was in Amsterdam last summer.

I'd been there on business, and found myself with a free Friday afternoon. I hopped a taxi and got dropped off at the museum. I'd never seen it; my wife had visited it back in 1978. We had tried to see it when we were there in 1999, but it was closed for renovation. So I stood in line (wildly eclectic mix group of people, of which I undoubtedly looked the most unusual -- sports shirt, slacks, socks, shoes and a light jacket; nothing pierced and no obvious tattoos, and no spiked or dyed hair) and found myself inside within 10 minutes.

I loved the place, and I liked the paintings of Van Gogh's comtemporaries as much I liked the Van Goghs. I think my favorite was Van Gogh's The Bedroom, located in his yellow house in Arles and painted in 1888. I found it later reproduced on a tile in the gift shop, and the tile now sits on my bookshelf at work. (Whenever I go to any museum, I always buy the museum guidebook and something else; my wife can tell you all about it.)

The guidebook is a friendly little thing, something that looks like it would have been created by the Dutch -- compact in size, straightforward text and containing reproductions of most of the paintings in the museum. The little book taught me several things I had forgotten or never knew about the artist:
  • He died in 1890 at age 37; only in the last year of his life did even minor notice begin to be paid of his work.
  • His younger brother Theo died a year later, and was reburied next to him in 1914.
  • It was Theo's wife, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, who doggedly worked at gaining recognition for her brother-in-law's art. Theo and then Jo (and their son, Vincent) ended up with the bulk of the artists's unsold paintings. She sold a few, organized exhibitions, and edited the first Dutch edition of Vincent and Theo's letters. The paintings she held on to form the core of what's in the museum.
  • He didn't cut off his entire left ear, but only a piece of it.

Odd how a video, a song by an American singer and a little guidebook can transport you across the ocean in a flash.

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