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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

"Van Gogh in Arles" by Alfred Nemeczek

Van Gogh arrived in a snow-bound Arles on February 20th 1888; within an incredible year, both productive and destructive, he had completed his most famous works such as his Sunflowers, Starry Night, and his room, had cut off his ear and been confined in a mental hospital.

This book is mostly a textual accompaniment to some of his paintings from the period. It explains Van Gogh's artistic ideas as well as giving a little biography. He always felt that he was learning (he was still a relatively young and inexperienced painter) and believed in the "drawing, study, picture" hierarchy (p 39).

Some great lines

  • "Van Gogh was concerned throughout his life never to lose sight of the social responsibility of art, the human element in painting." (p 20)
  • "His work was not only for himself, but for a wider public to which he felt accountable." (p 39)
  • "painting and screwing a lot are incompatible" (p 55)
  • "He was often at odds with the planet on which he lived. He viewed it as a study by God ... 'this world was evidently slapped together in a hurry on one of his bad days'" (p 56)
  • "nil is a negative force" (p 65)
  • "He wanted 'to find a special brushwork without stippling ... nothing but the varied stroke ... stippling and making halos and other things ... are real discoveries, but we must ... see to it that this technique does not become a universal dogma'." (p 74)
  • "I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize" (p 74)
  • "The significance of the empty chair as a symbol of death for Van Gogh has been well documented." (p 100)


Of course the real beauty of the book lies in the wonderful pictures, some of which I hadn't seen before. Why always sunflowers? The Starry Night by the Rhone is brilliant and so is The Old Peasant Patience Escalier.

May 2018; 115 pages

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