Following in the Footsteps

The Thursday before last was Van Gogh day. At least, it was for Marchutz students. We went to a few different motifs in and near Arles and then examined (reproductions of) his paintings, and talked about what we saw. The first stop was by a bridge crossing a river next to some grass, which is similar to the motif Van Gogh must have used for his painting: Langlois Bridge at Arles. I knew virtually nothing about Van Gogh until last week, other than that little mishap with his ear. Apparently many people in his family were preachers. He was highly influenced by Japanese art. The way humanity makes its mark on the Earth is a common theme in his work.

Next we went to Les Alyscamps, where Van Gogh painted 2 paintings of the same name. We examined one of them in detail. This place was once part of a road the Romans used when going towards Rome. The road is lined with sarcofagi, and those with power or influence hoped to be buried there.

Another stop was was at the hospital in Arles; Hotel Dieu (God’s Hotel). Our professor told us that at one point there was an Hotel Dieu in each city. As one might imagine, the name implies that many people who are there are dying and will therefore soon go to God. We examined his motif for his painting Garden in the Hospital at ArlesWe took a few minutes to walk around the garden (the majority of time was spent looking from the spot where Van Gogh stood), and I noticed the colorful walls, and had a hard time imagining that they were in that state in the 19th century. Well, apparently the building was painted that way to fit the painting after the painting became famous.

Next was a castle, from which Van Gogh painted some wheatfields. We spent some time looking for people in the painting and we concluded that the painting did indeed contain no human figures. But wait! Our professor encouraged us to look closer. In the center of the painting are two tiny figures, a man and a women, working in the field. I don’t know what the painting is called, sorry…

Lastly we had planned to go to the asylum at which Van Gogh placed himself voluntarily, and looked out through the bars and painted quite a few paintings of a guy going to town on some hay with a scythe. Sadly the place had closed before we got there, but we sat outside and looked at 3 paintings of the same motif.

Speaking of semi-crazy artists, I also learned recently that Cézanne, probably the most famous of the Aixois, was known to destroy 4-5 of his paintings for every one he completed. For the past 7 weeks I have been following in Cézanne’s footsteps in a literal sense (some sidewalks are aligned with gold square’s to indicate where he walked). Seeing as I have more of a nourishing attitude towards my own paintings, although I am still in the beginner stage as far as being a painter (as opposed to an illustrator) goes, I intend not to follow in his footsteps figuratively…



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