Van Gogh – ‘arrive at the truthful’

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Last weekend – because there was no sport in the school holidays – hooray! – we all went to the Vincent van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

It was beautiful and crowded. Beautiful because the paintings were amazing. I loved seeing the brush strokes and the vivid colours.

I must admit, I didn’t enjoy hearing the commentary from all the other people looking at the same paintings. ‘Oh, that’s a nice one!’ seems a little banal when discussing van Gogh.

I didn’t take any photos of the paintings but I did take a photo of the following quote from van Gogh.

One must work long and hard to arrive at the truthful. What I want and set as my goal is damned difficult, and yet I don’t believe I’m aiming too high. I want to make drawings that move some people … Whether in figures or in landscapes, I would like to express not something sentimentally melancholic but deep sorrow. In short, I want to reach the point where people say of my work, that man feels deeply and that man feels subtly.

As a writer, it’s one of the hardest things to ‘arrive at the truthful’, to create fiction that tells the truth about how we feel about things and what matters. It’s an odd dichotomy that art can reflect ourselves better than reality sometimes.

We have a picture book called Camille and the sunflowers written by Laurence Anholt. The story is told from Camille’s point of view. He’s a young boy, who with his father, a postman, befriends Vincent. Vincent paints portraits of Camille’s family and a wonderful painting of sunflowers, based on a bunch which Camille gave him.

There’s a brief animation and a reading of this book here, if you have kids who are interested.

There’s also a book by Laurence Anholt called Anholt’s artists activity book about a few artists, with ideas for kids to create their own artwork based on these artists’ techniques. The van Gogh one is about painting a portrait.

The van Gogh exhibition closes tomorrow – hurry!

4 comments

  1. Another good one Karen,

    The expression “different strokes” comes to mind when admiring his work; we should be grateful for the fact that he was different.

  2. I thought it was a beautifully curated exhibition. I went with my girl and we both ended up taking photos of quotes too! I liked the one that was to the effect that there is so much light in the darkness – which I thought was a bit of a lesson for life!

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