Thursday 13 May 2021

Goghing... gone

Naturally, going to the Van Gogh Live show that came to Auckland recently was always going to remind me of Arles. The show is a multi-screen projection of a good selection of his paintings, from early to last, with a bit of modest animation in some of them. The screens are all around the arena, at different angles and heights, and there are several paintings projected at once, so you have to keep looking around - including on the floor (though clearly not everyone felt that responsibility).

Each set has an accompanying quote from his letters or diary, in a handwriting font that takes a bit of effort to read, and the pace is brisk enough that it's far from a relaxing experience. It's good, though, and his paintings, especially the starry night ones, really benefit from the large-scale, super-bright treatment. It's fairly short, so I watched it twice. Overall, though, the story is sad. Poor man. He sold only one painting in his (self-shortened) lifetime. 

Regular 😀 readers will recall that I went to Arles back in - sigh - 2012, beginning a river cruise there with Uniworld along the Rhone, which finished in Lyon. Arles is where Van Gogh spent his most productive, if dramatic, years, and on a tour around that lovely, and appealingly lived-in, town, we visited a number of the scenes that he painted, most memorably the yellow Café la Nuit. 

Incidentally, the self-portrait with the bandaged ear confuses a lot of people: it was the left ear that he sliced at (possibly off) with the knife, but the picture shows his right ear bandaged, because he was painting his actual mirror image. 

Anyway, it was several days later, when fishing the next clean coffee mug out of the drawer, that I saw it was decorated with one of his swirly cypress paintings. I'd forgotten all about it - and also, where I'd bought it. So that occupied me on and off for a few more days, until the mug reappeared in the morning coffee cycle. I suddenly remembered then that I'd bought it at the National Gallery in London, where I'd gone on a Silversea cruise in - sigh - 2019. 

Shamefully, despite having lived in England for years and going to London many times, it was my first visit to the gallery - it was always one of those 'next time' things. If nothing else, recent events should have taught us not to put stuff off, don't you think? Just made that one in time.

That was a chastening lesson, but I was still quietly triumphant about having remembered where I'd bought the mug. Turns out, though, that all I had to do was turn it over.

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