It was only a few summers ago that my husband and I had the chance to take the train into Manhattan. The essential point of the journey was to see Gustav Klimt’s golden painting to view in person the portrait of Adel Bloch-Bauer I 1907 at the Neue Gallery. We would of course not miss the opportunity to revisit the Metropolitan Museum of Art just a short stroll away while we were in town for the weekend. It is as grand a structure as one would expect to find in the most cosmopolitan cities of Europe and of course while there you will hear the artwork discussed in whispers in many and varied languages. New York is of course an international city; a landing place for tourists and immigrants alike.
From ancient Roman sculpture to the most modern of work is displayed at the Met. I am drawn to the tiles and mosaics of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the post impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh. Whether at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or in Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House in London for me there is a poignancy and immediacy of Vincent van Gogh’s work. It was not that he rose so much above us and others that make up the masses of everyday humans rather that in spite of toiling and suffering in poverty he managed to create timeless works of art. It only takes reading a few letters from him to his brother Theo that he hoped and prayed that he would be a good artist. As history will show us to be remembered as a good artist the road is far from smooth and paved for easy travel.
Vincent was always searching, searching for the best way to see and to capture images he saw in the everyday world around him. He was no painter of aristocratic faces at some opulent home, Vincent van Gogh painted and sketched the working class people around his daily life and of course he painted landscapes. His portraits of working class people are cherished for the way he captured their rustic images in ordinary oil paint. What elevates Vincent van Gogh’s work to the absolute sublime is the way he painted his impression of a night sky that catches our breath and makes our heart beat a little faster when we stand in front of Starry Night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.
If you do have the opportunity and stand admiring it amazed that some old piece of art can make your heart beat faster or your eyes well up than you will also understand why this painting and not the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is considered the most valuable painting on the entire planet. The emotional attachment millions of people feel for this extraordinary artwork lifts mere canvas and paint to the realms of fine poetry. It is something that regardless of our education, sex, nationality, we all feel for this work like no other, because art like mathematics and music is a universal language that we can all communicate in. The language of art is a unifier for formal education is handy but not essential; one only needs to open our eyes and look with our heart to understand.
Starry Night is Vincent van Gogh’s most recognized work and it was painted in an asylum; not a posh Parisian apartment but a mental asylum. I find this amazing. Think of all the people that believe they don’t have enough stuff and they fill their waking moments with the acquisition of yet more stuff. When they die they’ll leave a lot of stuff.
Vincent van Gogh produced more than 2000 works of art; and sometimes he was patient in a mental hospital.
2020 has arrived, what will you be remembered for in 2120?