As I mentioned a few days ago the big "blockbuster" exhibition at the National Gallery for this summer is Van Gogh: Up Close - the first major showing of a collection of the Dutch post-impressionists paintings in Canada for 25 years. The first time I saw a real Van Gogh would have been in the late 1950s - if my fading memory serves me right. I vaguely remember lining up to shuffle - and in some case be shoved - passed some of his more famous works at the old AGO. I do recall a flash of brilliant yellow and orange sunflowers until someone barked at me that "others wanna see the pictures too you know!" or at least that was the gist of the remark. Ah the sophistication of Toronto in the 1950s.
The opening night of the current exhibition dragged that memory out of the fog of time as we joined the crowds gathering around the 40 paintings that have been culled from private and public collections from around the world. It was difficult to appreciate the stated purpose of the exhibition to give us an "up close" view of his development - the volume of people meant you were either at a distance or really really close up. I'll hold off on giving an opinion on it after a second - hopefully less crowded - visit in the next month or two.
|Painted in Paris early in 1887 this is one of a series of canvases capturing the worn|
footwear of a labourer. The Cone Collection, Baltimore Museum of Fine Art
But as so often happens I found that as lovely as the Iris and the Almond Blossom paintings are I was captivated by a still life Van Gogh completed in 1887 of a pair of old shoes. Shoes were the subject of at least seven of his oils between 1886 and 1888. Not the shoes of the ladies and gentleman of the salons but the worn, scuffed and oft mended shoes of labourers and workmen. There have been lectures, dissertations and the odd thesis written about the meaning of these works. Is Van Gogh using them as a metaphor for the wearing artistic road he has chosen? Do the shoes symbolize the rough existence of the painter in an unappreciative world? Or are they just a pair of shoes? Simply just another subject for a still-life? What ever it is I found it one of the more interesting paintings in the exhibition.
|100 Famous Views of Edo|
Evening Shower at Atake
and the Great Bridge
Hiroshige - 1856-1856
|One of the thirty five small landscapes that Augustin Hirschvogel etched between 1545 and 1549. This small jewel|
is only 5.4 by 15.5 cms (2.126" by 6.102") but is filled with details that bring the scene to life.
Karl Wilhelm Kolbe, a German artist who seemed to have a bit of an obsession with cows. A quick search revealed that his studies of various flora seemed to have cows as their fauna on more than one occasion. I found The Cow in the Reeds which he did somewhere between 1800 and 1803 a delight. It took a bit to find the cow but she is definitely there and seem quite quite contented.
During a bit of a hiatus in my work life at the beginning of July - more about that another time - I'll try and get back to the Gallery for a second more leisurely look. But in the meantime I'm gearing up for the possibility of more Van Gogh's when I spend a few days in Amsterdam next week - and more about that later.
02 June - 1846: Birth of the Italian Republic: In a referendum, Italians vote to turn Italy from a monarchy into a Republic.