I recently visited the Van Gogh’s museum. That’s Vincent van Gogh, the guy who cut off his right earlobe and asked a prostitute to ‘guard this object carefully’. Did you know he shot himself in the chest and stayed put in his room at the Auberge Ravoux until finally dying two days later?
The visit´s most cherished lesson: you do not sum up a man’s life based on two psychotic events.
Through his work, Van Gogh moves beyond the tortured artist label stalking him and shows as complex a human being as his multilayered pigment paintings. His energetic brushwork and vibrant contrasts convey reality as interpreted by his troubled mind and heart, but show reality nonetheless.
The artist found exciting beauty in every moment and scenery he encountered. Whether the ‘beautiful midsummer sun’, the ‘great starlit vault of heaven’ or the ‘poorest cottages and dirtiest corners’, he noted life’s enchantments all around, and spent time to relish them. Very few times have I seen this quality in a fellow Dutchman.
I wonder, during your 15 minutes of lunch, while gobbling down two pieces of bread with a slim, in between film of Hagelsag, have you ever taken a moment to picture the breathtaking wheat fields they came from?
‘No time’, you’d probably say, ‘there’s work to be done.’ But your countryman did.
In Wheat Field with Crows, he mixes art, science and love of nature through powerful strokes which create a sense of fluidity and balancing colors that reinforce each other according to scientific theory of the time. The field is divided by an earthly path twisting towards the horizon, suddenly coming to a halt and leaving the spectator with a disquieting feeling of being strayed in a vast wheat ocean. Not the worst of places to get lost in.
‘If I’m worth anything later, I am worth something now’, he wrote, ‘for wheat is wheat, even if people think is a grass in the beginning.’ In his own unique and glorious style, van Gogh better understood wheat fields than the WUR students and teachers that so resolutely study them today.