The most wonderful exhibition of some of Van Gogh’s paintings is shown in London, the Royal Academy of Arts. Of course, it has had raving reviews but I have always been a great admirer of Van Gogh and have been to the museum in Amsterdam several times. This exhibition is different though and suddenly you see the man and the painter through different eyes: there are these extracts from his letters to his brother Theo, to his sister, to friends. Written in this very small but very clear handwriting, in Dutch and later in French. The letters are full of drawings, when he illustrates what he is painting, and talks about what he wants to paint. There are about 6 or seven themes and there are paintings and drawings I have never seen before. It is strange to read these Dutch letters in an English hall, and to see him so close up, as someone totally dedicated to his art and constantly wanting to improve. His experiments with colour are gorgeous, the vase of cornflowers, daisies, poppies and carnations is definitely one of my favourites. The exuberance of the red, pink and white against the blue is fantastic. I cannot show it here, but I have two copies of the postcard version so that I can remind myself, even if the colours are not done justice.
Yes, that was a good day out – especially after another hectic week of travelling to the other side of the country. It is absolutely essential to get out and do something completely different, every so often.
This is one of the very first paintings in the exhibition, a study of two onions on a plate, a letter (from his brother) and a book: Van Gogh was an avid reader, and one section of this exhibition focuses on art and literature. He wrote in one of his letters that ‘books and reality and art are the same kind of thing for me’. Apparently, he read fluently in Dutch, French, English and German. So, rather than the mad man often depicted he was in fact a highly literate man. He writes so well and so consistently – I am sure he would have been a blogger if the internet had been available!
Meanwhile, spring is poking its head around the corner: the daffodils are out and the camellia is budding, desperately trying to show its red flowers, whilst the white one, hidden at the back of the house, has secretly flowered already. I just had not noticed as the persisting cold and rain has prevented me from making excursions around the house. But yes, spring is there. Great. Time to wrap up the socks and push the thick winter coats to the back of the cupboard. Time to enjoy the colours of spring and summer.