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2016年8月22日 星期一

Vincent Van Gogh (文森特 - 梵高)





Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is a Dutch artist whose French-influenced works I like. van Gogh did not always paint in bright colors. In fact, he did not start out as an artist at all, having begun his career at age 16 as an art dealer's assistant working in London and Paris, an unpaid supply school teacher, then as a salesman in a bookshop when he got intensely interested in religion and thought of becoming a pastor, like his father. Having failed the entrance exam at the U of Amsterdam theology school in 1878, he spent 3 months at another Protestant missionary school near Brussels and failed again but took up a job as a missionary for about a year in a mining district before following the advice of his brother Theo, himself an art dealer, with whom he was closest, to seriously learn painting from the Dutch painter Wilhem Roelofs in Brussels. The latter recommended him to join the Academy of Fine Arts there in November 1880. He did so and took some free lessons on perspective and modelling antiquity. But being a free soul, he did not stay there long. That's all the artistic training he got.

Vincent van Gogh started out in charcoal drawings and then water color and did not take up oil until 1881, upon the encouragement and support of Theo, but once he did, he loved it and applied it on his canvas most liberally. For a while, he shacked up with a pregnant prostitute with her 5 year-old daughter but couldn't afford to marry her as he was never able to sell any of his paintings. In fact, legend has it that it that  during his entire life, he had sold exactly just one painting, "La Vigne Rouge" (The Red Vineyard). He remained single for the rest of his life and spent his last years in a mental institution until he committed suicide at age 37. 



Bright colors were not always with Vincent van Gogh, as his famous paintings had led us to believe. That was something he learned from the Parisian painters when he went there and learned about the fashion, especially from Paul Gauguin with whom he was staying in Arles (1888-1889), until he fell out with Guaguin after a particularly bad quarrel during one of his epileptic fits, in which he was said to have cut off part of his own ear lobe, the subject of a self-portrait  of himself with a bandaged ear. Before that, he was staying mostly in Neunen (1883-1885) painting mostly still lives and peasants, producing more than 200 painting in two years, years during which he engaged in voluminous correspondence with his brother Theo on his notions of painting. He had his first exhibition in the Hague in 1885 but sold nothing. After that, he moved to Antwerp, living in dire poverty. Theo complained that his paintings were too dark!

Very few people not previously interested in painting knew of van Gogh's paintings before they heard the beautiful song "Starry, Starry Night" by a talented young song writer, performer and singer Don McLean.

In his later years, van Gogh started to paint with increasingly bright colors which seem to vibrate with incredible intensity. So intense were the feelings trembling with such strong colors that the lines where they appear seem simply unable to stay straight! I like his yellows, his greens and his blues. They seem to literally leap out from his paintings.

"Starry, Starry Night", the title of Don McLean's famous song, was done whilst van Gogh was staying in Arles, a beautiful Gallo-Roman hillside town in the Provence, by the side of the Rhone river, south of Avignon in southern France. I took a train there many many years ago. I still remember its aqueducts and amphitheatres and its Jewish quarters. It was a Phoenician port before the Romans arrived.  It was there that Vincent painted his now world-famous "Starry, Starry Night over the Rhone" and  his "Cafe Terrace at night". both done in 1888. 




Starry, Starry Night (Vincent)

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul

Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue

Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night

You took your life, as lovers often do
But I could've told you Vincent
This world was never meant for
One as beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frame-less heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget

Like the strangers that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will