Have you ever read something about an artist & thought, “Yes! Me, too!!”? That’s how I felt when I read the following quote at the Van Gogh: Up Closeexhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last Saturday. “For Van Gogh, the blade of grass became a metaphor for living simply & observing the surrounding world with thoughtful attention, a practice that grounded his personal & professional life.” That quote deeply resonated with me because I, too, am trying to stay grounded by connecting more intimately with nature.
Several Japanese prints similar to those Van Gogh collected & used as sources of inspiration were also on display. The prints were absolutely beautiful! In the museum gift shop, I purchased 2 books on them & have spent the last few days studying the work of Hokusai specifically. Take a look at Van Gogh’s inspiration & see how he interpreted similar subject matter.
Van Gogh's Iris
Hokusai's Bullfinch with Dropping Cherry
Van Gogh's Almond Blossom
Artists get inspiration from nature & one another. Van Gogh & Hokusai make the surrounding landscape fall away, gently forcing the viewer to focus on the subject. They capture a moment, a mood. Each work is a visual haiku.
At times, my inner critic tells me that my work is too simplistic but then I remind myself, ‘That’s the point.” One blossom. One bird. One pine cone. Oneness.
My soul sighed with satisfaction this past week because of the abundance of inspiration around me. It’s been wonderful! First, we watched the 2006 BBC miniseries, The Impressionists, on DVD. This well-written, breathtakingly-beautiful series is told from Claude Monet’s point of view. The series is based on letters, notes, & diaries so the information is highly accurate. I learned that Monet ocassionally painted more than one canvas at a time so he could continue to work as the light changed the appearance of his subject. Each episode is full of gorgeous scenery that makes me completely understand why Money, Renoir, & the others found it so inspirational. The series also shows their actual paintings so you can see how the scenery was interpreted by each man. Highly recommend this for anyone whose eyes hunger for beauty & vibrant color.
Second, a friend shared Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith with me. As soon as I saw the book (that she had to lift out of her totebag with both hands), I exclaimed, “Ooooh” out loud as my eyes opened wide with wonder. It’s a massive biography at close to 900 pages but it, too, is full of photos & works that I had never seen before. I bought a copy so I have time to read it before my artist friends & I take a trip to Philadelphia to see the Van Gogh exhibit next month. I’m about 100 pages into it & have to say that it is extremely detailed. For example, I didn’t know that Van Gogh was working in Paris at the same time the Impressionists were shaking up the art world. (Gauguin was a stockbroker in Paris at that time, too.) All that brilliant talent coming together in one place at one time. Synchronicity… destiny… fate.
Lastly, a dear friend sent me the following link that shows 500 years of the female portrait. Take the time to watch; you’ll be amazed!