Visual Arts24 Sep 2008 10:36 am
Starry Night is one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous painting, and, rightfully, one of the most famous and revered paintings in the world. The vision it represents is often called “hallucinatory,” but, despite popular misconceptions, few artists were as intelligent, learned, or rational than Vincent. As he told his brother Theo in one of his many, brilliant letters, maintaining this composure was a constant struggle: “I am feeling well just now. … I am not strictly speaking mad, for my mind is absolutely normal in the intervals, and even more so than before. But during the attacks it is terrible–and then I lose consciousness of everything. But that spurs me on to work and to seriousness, as a miner who is always in danger and makes haste in what he does.” The “attacks” are there, but van Gogh’s paintings aren’t the product of those attacks; they’re the product of his struggle against them. (By the way, I found this quote in the brilliant art critic Robert Hughes’ collection Nothing If Not Critical, and encourage anybody who wants to learn about art to pick it up.)
Some of the glorious results of Vincent’s struggles are currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The show, which opened this week, is called “Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night.” Starry Night is on display, alongside van Gogh’s other visions of the night. The first major work is the Potato Eaters, and one of the last is the stunning Café Terrace at Night. Nothing here of dismembered ears and depressive visions, just the quarry of that “work and seriousness” Vincent mentioned to his brother Theo. We’re all the richer for it.
Stop by if you can, or view the online exhibition here.
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