2012 – a great year for Van Gogh


The fascination with Vincent Van Gogh carries on through 2012. Near the top of my pile of books to read is a new Vincent biography, Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. You might ask yourself why we need a new bio, especially one that weighs in at 976 pages.

Looking forward to starting in on Van Gogh: A Life.

Well, the authors claim to have done a great deal of in-depth research in cooperation with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam bringing significant new facts to light. The one that gets all the attention is their assertion that his “suicide” was not as it’s long been portrayed. Was it suicide at all? Who were those two youths with a gun?

Reading the reviews, the book receives consistent praise for the detail, but more so, the quality of the writing. Several online reviewers remarked how engaging the book felt which is good to know when you’re about to start in on nearly 1,000 pages.

This is an experienced team. In 1991, Naifeh and White Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for their biography of Jackson Pollock.

If you have an iPad, look for the recently released app Van Gogh’s Dream. This focuses on his last days in Auvers, and features a gallery of all the paintings he completed there. All in all, it’s a nicely put together app, easy to navigate and a satisfying amount of content. You can spend many hours with this app.

You'll enjoy Van Gogh's Dream. Very nicely done!

The dream in the title refers to a line in one of Van Gogh’s letters where he said it was a dream of his to hold a show in a café. Part of the impetus for this app is to help raise money for a show in the Auberge Ravoux where Vincent lived and eventually died in Auvers.  The owner of the Auberge has Vincent’s room 5 all set up to display one painting, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone would lend a significant piece, given the security challenges, the limitations of hanging such a painting in a room that could accommodate a maximum of 10 people at once, etc. Regardless, one can only hope the dream comes true. It would indeed be spectacular to see one of Vincent’s paintings hanging in a room that at one time had so many of his most famous paintings either nailed to the walls or rolled up in a cupboard. Read about the Auberge and his room here.

And if you’re anywhere near Canada this summer, it’s worth a trip to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa to see Van Gogh: Up Close which runs May 25 to September. 3, 2012. It features a total of 45 pieces, with a focus on close-up views of nature. So, it will be mainly flowers, trees, etc. It’s easy to wish for some of the many portraits or double-size landscapes of his Auvers days, but this will be a very interesting and focused show. For me, the highlight will be Almond Blossoms. I can hardly wait to see it again. The last time was Amsterdam, the 1990 anniversary show. Tickets go on sale February 15.

Along with the show, they are planning symposiums, talks, concerts and more. More info will be here in February apparently.


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