I missed Van Gogh’s birthday last month, again. I meant to post these links earlier.
Warrior artist – Dublin Review of Books Anyone who dips into Van Gogh’s letters will be struck by how much and how widely he read. He devoured and used books up as he did the people around him, though he never used people in a malicious way. It was just that few could match or live up to his passionate intensity. As Mariella Guzzoni, an independent scholar and art curator, writes: “It should be said . . . that though Vincent cherished books, he was not a book collector. More precisely, he was a book-user. For him, it was not important to physically possess books, but to make them his own.”
There’s more to his story than just him, though.
The woman who made Vincent van Gogh – The New York Times Twenty-one months after her marriage, Jo was alone, stunned at the fecund dose of life she had just experienced, and at what was left to her from that life: approximately 400 paintings and several hundred drawings by her brother-in-law.
The brothers’ dying so young, Vincent at 37 and Theo at 33, and without the artist having achieved renown — Theo had managed to sell only a few of his paintings — would seem to have ensured that Vincent van Gogh’s work would subsist eternally in a netherworld of obscurity. Instead, his name, art and story merged to form the basis of an industry that stormed the globe, arguably surpassing the fame of any other artist in history. That happened in large part thanks to Jo van Gogh-Bonger. She was small in stature and riddled with self-doubt, had no background in art or business and faced an art world that was a thoroughly male preserve. Her full story has only recently been uncovered. It is only now that we know how van Gogh became van Gogh.
It’s a fascinating read, his sister-in-law Jo van Gogh-Bonger was remarkable. Here’s a photo of her from around 1909.
And there were other important women in his life too.
The fascinating lives of Vincent van Gogh’s three sisters – Hyperallergic Vincent van Gogh’s three sisters — Willemien (Wil), Elisabeth (Lies), and Anna van Gogh — are highlighted in the historical biography The Van Gogh Sisters by Willem-Jan Verlinden (Thames & Hudson). The book was originally published in Dutch in 2016; the English version, translated by Yvette Rosenberg and Brendan Monaghan, includes previously unpublished letters, largely the result of research completed after the Dutch version was first released.
Through letters between the siblings, we read that Lies was frustrated that women didn’t have more professional options that were socially acceptable. We learn about how Wil often copied Vincent’s drawings and was his favorite model, and that the two wrote to each other about art and literature and inquired about one another’s mental health. The book draws you in with stories about the siblings’ pursuits of jobs, love, and artistic curiosities, as well as lush portrayals of each family home.
How Van Gogh paid for his mentally ill sister’s care decades after his death – The Guardian Vincent van Gogh remained penniless throughout his tragic life, which ended in suicide shortly after a stay in a mental asylum. Yet two decades later, paintings he had given to his sister were sold to pay for her stay in a psychiatric hospital, commanding such high prices that the proceeds funded years of treatment, according to letters published in a new book.
Willemien, the youngest of Van Gogh’s three sisters, shared his love of art and literature and, like him, struggled with her mental health. While Van Gogh was committed to an asylum after cutting off part of his ear and giving it to a prostitute in a fit of madness, his sister was institutionalised for almost 40 years until her death in 1941.
In 1909, the oldest sister, Anna, wrote of selling a picture that he had given Willemien, enabling her to pay for medical costs: “I remember when Wil got the painting from Vincent, but what a figure! Who would have thought that Vincent would contribute to Wil’s upkeep in this way?”
Speaking of selling Van Goghs, here’s a very realistic/utterly fake portrait of him by the ‘post photographer’ Bas Uterwijk that’s for sale.
I’m still struggling with all this, to be honest. Am I right in thinking that I can spend 20 Tezos (about £100) on something that’s exactly the same as the 1620×2048 .png file I can download if I right-click on the image on the webpage?
At the same time, the NFT backlash has been furious. Highly visible NFT evangelists make unrealistic claims to be freeing artists from the problems of institutional gatekeepers, but there are clearly still problematic dynamics of race, class, power, and gender that shape these markets too, and artists still find themselves partly reliant on social media platforms and traditional institutions to build audiences and accrue value for their work.
It wasn’t meant to be like this, obviously. Here’s Anil Dash, the man behind the technology.
NFTs weren’t supposed to end like this – The Atlantic The idea behind NFTs was, and is, profound. Technology should be enabling artists to exercise control over their work, to more easily sell it, to more strongly protect against others appropriating it without permission. By devising the technology specifically for artistic use, McCoy and I hoped we might prevent it from becoming yet another method of exploiting creative professionals. But nothing went the way it was supposed to. Our dream of empowering artists hasn’t yet come true, but it has yielded a lot of commercially exploitable hype.
It seems to me that the broken art market is still far from being fixed. I wonder what the folks at Sedition make of all this.
Featured image Works by Vincent on exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium, 1914. Van Gogh Museum Documentation, Amsterdam
Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night – LEGO Ideas Clips and brackets form the swirling cloud; plates stack to form the hillsides and bushes; curve parts build up to become the cypress tree. My favorite part is the inclined plate stack on the right, capturing the angled brush strokes within the moon-lit cloud. … I love putting the minifigure before the 3D scenery. It is like watching the artist work on the painting in real time.
I’m still trying to get my head around Second Life. The scale of it confuses me, with its talk of continents and regions, parcels and places. I need a map. It seems there’s a longstandingtechnicaldifficulty with that currently, but here’s a helpful resource — an inworld Maps of Second Life exhibition.
The maps (and more) of Second Life – Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World The maps start from the earliest days of Second Life – 2002 – and run through to almost the present. It encompasses “official” maps, those produced by SL cartographers depicting the Second Life Mainland continents, and specialist maps charting air routes, airports, the SL railways, specific estates. Not only are they informative, some stand as works of art in their own right.
For more background on how that exhibition was curated and designed, here’s an interview with its creator, Juliana Lethdetter.
In an earlier blog post, Inara Pey notes that, whilst maps might not contribute greatly to a sense of community, they’re vital for establishing a sense of presence.
Maps as metaphors: Second Life and Sansar – Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World However, the idea that the world map presents Second Life as a place, adding to our sense of presence, is harder to deny. In fact, given that Second Life is intended to be a single world of (largely) interconnected spaces, its representation via a map can be a vital aspect of reinforcing this view. In other words, the map is, for many – but not necessarily all of us – an intrinsic part of how we see Second Life as a connected whole, a place.
Of course, there are other ways of seeing Second Life.
Remake the stars – New World Notes What Robbie Dingo has done is something Akira Kurosawa only envisioned: brought Van Gogh’s masterpiece to rich, three dimensional life, and for a brief moment, recast it as a living place. (Brief, for the construction was always intended as a temporary project, “so it’s all been swept away now, leaving only the film behind.”) But for a breathtaking moment you get to the most iconic of starry nights recast under the rising sun.
“One of the challenges was to make it look fluid and simple,” Robbie tells me. “If I have got it right, then it should look like something that was thrown together very quickly, but in reality I worked on this in dribs and drabs over a number of evenings.”
who took us to his lodging close by, and did shew us a little flower-pot of his doing, the finest thing that ever, I think, I saw in my life; the drops of dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced, again and again, to put my finger to it, to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no. He do ask 70l. for it: I had the vanity to bid him 20l.; but a better picture I never saw in my whole life; and it is worth going twenty miles to see it.
Around the time Peyps was poking the painting of Verelst, another northern European painter, Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, was also causing confusion with the brush, creating his masterpiece known as The Reverse of a Framed Painting (ca. 1670), an image that is, to modern eyes at least, his most striking.
I love it, but I wonder how it was initially shown off. The gag would be wholly lost if this painting of a frame was itself framed. But weren’t all paintings framed?
I’ve been revisiting my post earlier in the week about the online worldwide Van Gogh exhibition. As well as high resolution scans of the actual paintings, the curators have documented the backs of them too — sturdy, wooden frames covered in gallery stickers. They remind me of airport tags on luggage.
Wheatfield with Crows was in Manchester? I would have loved to have seen that.
Dutch museums unveil free digital collection of 1,000+ artworks by Van Gogh – My Modern Met Van Gogh Worldwide is a new project by a group of Dutch museums which presents a digital collection of over 1,000 of the artist’s masterpieces. Building off the digitized collection begun several years ago by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, almost half of the post-Impressionist works of this prolific artist are now available to view—with scholarly commentary—from the safety of your own home.
Take a wander yourself, there’s so much to take in.
Van Gogh Worldwide Van Gogh Worldwide is a free digital platform providing art-historical and technical data about the work of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). The artist produced a total of approximately 2000 artworks, and the aim of Van Gogh Worldwide is to present data for these in an accessible way, via a user-friendly website.
The resolution of each image is wonderful, allowing you to get closer to the paintings than you probably could in real life.
And you can even view the paintings in a raking light, to get a sense of just how heavily textured and expressive these were. Not quite as three-dimensional as Timur Zagirov’s wooden blocks, but still.
Then there’s this odd story about (another) one of his selfies.
Self-portrait or portrait of Theo? – Van Gogh Museum Van Gogh specialists from the museum recently returned to study the two portraits afresh. A publication on photographs of Vincent and Theo contained new insights regarding the likenesses and differences between the physical appearance of the two brothers. Some researchers had also harboured prolonged doubts about the identification made in 2011.
The resulting discussion made it clear that, based on all sources and arguments, it was not possible to determine with certainty which of the brothers is depicted on the portrait that was identified as being of Theo van Gogh in 2011. The decision has therefore been taken to use the title Self-Portrait or Portrait of Theo van Gogh for this painting from now on.
He’s not the only one using ‘deep learning’ networks to understand more about Van Gogh and his work.
MIT CSAIL develops AI to show how artists created their famous paintings – designboom You mightn’t have thought that Vincent van Gogh and artificial intelligence go hand-in-hand, but thanks to a system developed by researchers at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), we can now see his painting technique like never before. The system, called ‘Timecraft’, takes the image of a finished painting and analyzes how it was likely to have been originally created. The resulting time-lapse videos provide an amazing insight into renowned works from famous artists such as Cezanne and van Gogh.
But let’s not forget what brought us all here in the first place, some incredible imagery.
The first digital art center in Paris, established in a restored 19th-century foundry, the Atelier des Lumières creates monumental digital exhibitions that surround visitors with the pictorial world of the greatest artists.
Van Gogh, Starry Night – Atelier des Lumières The new digital exhibition in the Atelier des Lumières immerses visitors in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), a genius who was not recognised during his lifetime and who transformed painting. Projected on all the surface of the Atelier, this new visual and musical production retraces the intense life of the artist, who, during the last ten years of his life, painted more than 2,000 pictures, which are now in collections around the world.
Hockney: ‘His paintings are full of movement. What people love about Van Gogh’s paintings is that all the brush marks are visible and you can see how they are painted. When you’re drawing one blade of grass you’re looking and then you see more. And then you see the other blades of grass and you’re always seeing more. Well, that’s exciting to me and it was exciting to Van Gogh. I mean, he saw very clearly’.
That visit to the Netherlands wasn’t without incident, but here’s an interview with another artist from Yorkshire whose latest work goes back to nature in a visually similar way.
Interview: Damien Hirst – Idler
I’d always made more money the next year than the year before. But it was unsustainable and it bites your arse. They all love you. The bank loves you, and the accountants love you, because they’re taking your money. Every year you get more and more people as well. One guy is taking 10 per cent and then it’s another guy taking 10 per cent and another guy taking 10 per cent and it’s all a big party. But before you know it, suddenly you’ve got an overdraft when before you had loads of cash. The people who give you the overdraft are your best mates as well, smiling at you and telling you that you’re amazing so you keep doing it. […]
You start by thinking you’ll get one assistant and before you know it you’ve got biographers, fire eaters, jugglers, fucking minstrels and lyre players all wandering around. They’re all saying they aren’t being paid enough and they all need assistants. Then one night you ask the lyre player to play for you and they say: “My lyre is all scratched up and I did ask for a lyre technician but you said not yet and if I had one I could come and play for you now.” So you’ve got to have a lyre technician and then you better get him an Uber account too.
What would Mussorgsky have made of these virtual promenades around pictures at exhibitions, I wonder.
Google virtual tour – The National Gallery
In 2016, Google created this 360° tour of Rooms 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and Central Hall. Immerse yourself in Renaissance masterpieces from Northern Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, including works by Titian, Veronese, and Holbein.
How to explore the British Museum from home – The British Museum Blog
Did you know that the Museum is the world’s largest indoor space on Google Street View? You can go on a virtual visit to more than 60 galleries – perfect for creating your own bespoke tour around your favourites. See highlights like the Rosetta Stone in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery or discover gems like the beautiful textiles in the Sainsbury African Galleries.
It’s not the same, though, is it?
The rise of the virtual gallery tour: what works and what doesn’t (yet) – Frame
Received wisdom, and newspaper columnists, would have you believe that we’re currently experiencing a revolution in the way we consume art and artefacts online. The British Museum, frequently the institution at the top of the global visitor-number leaderboard, has seen a corresponding surge in its digital audience since it closed its doors. Meanwhile Art Basel has rushed through the development of its digital viewing rooms (which had over €248 million of art on display for its Hong Kong inauguration) and Hauser and Wirth is hosting its first digital-only exhibition, a collection of drawings by Louise Bourgeois.
But for gallery-goers who are yet to log on, visiting these aforementioned virtual venues is likely to result in disappointment.
I found myself nodding along vigorously to this part further down.
Perhaps the answer lies in the more creative use of an established medium. It’s interesting to note that, as lockdown was looming, and perhaps in a nod to the insufficiency of the above interfaces, The Van Gogh Museum launched an alternative form of the gallery tour. A series of seven carefully choreographed 4K films, available on their YouTube channel, walk the user through the museum’s various rooms to an accompanying sound track. It’s clearly a more prescribed way of experiencing both the art and the space, but one that also feels more natural. The camera movement doesn’t equate to a true point-of-view walkthrough; the stabilized image glides through the rooms in a rather disembodied way. But the manner in which it glances across paintings, occasionally stopping and approaching a particularly affecting portrait before pulling back, does a far better job of transmitting the pleasure of being in the presence of the artefacts than staccato jumping and zooming.
That’s certainly been my experience. I’ve been randomly clicking around the National Gallery for a while now, feeling like that Anish Kapoor fan unable to find his way out.
So I think I’ll head over to the Van Gogh Museum’s YouTube channel, after I’ve been guided round the Tate’s Warhol exhibition.
Andy Warhol exhibition guide – Tate
This major retrospective is the first Warhol exhibition at Tate Modern for almost 20 years. As well as his iconic pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans, it includes works never seen before in the UK. […] Join curators Gregor Muir and Fiontán Moran as they discuss Warhol through the lens of the immigrant story, his LGBTQI identity and concerns with death and religion.
There are other ways of approaching this.
You can download thousands of coloring book pages from museum collections – My Modern Met
This year alone touts 117 PDFs from various cultural institutions that can be downloaded and printed right at home, and colored in. You can jump into the past through local advertisements from the West Virginia and Regional History Center Coloring Book or take a ride on a vintage motorcycle with the Harley-Davidson Archive’s digital collection. Visit these exhibits through pages detailing the beloved fairy tale Cinderella, to fascinating diagrams of medical equipment from a bygone era. Simply, there are coloring pages made for every kind of interest a person may have, and the ones available through the #ColorOurCollections website will help you refine your coloring skills at the same time.
Manchester Museum in Quarantine
We believe connection and inspiration is needed during challenging times like this one. We have uploaded our digital content onto this mobile site so you can explore and enjoy Manchester Museum in your own home. We hope it helps entertain, educate and sparks joy and wonder until we re-open.
An augmented reality tool to sell art during the pandemic – Design Milk
ALL World is a self-publishing platform that allows artists to digitally exhibit and sell their work via augmented reality. Artists and designers can upload images of their work, create AR exhibitions, and then share it with users, allowing them to visualize the work within their own space. By being able to see the work at scale in context, the guesswork of whether or not it will work dissolves which could potentially create more sales. While it’s a great tool for established artists and designers, imagine what it could do for those just starting out and struggling to get eyes on their work.
Perhaps some normality (kind of) is slowly returning.
‘We are all Edward Hopper paintings now’: is he the artist of the coronavirus age? – The Guardian
Who can fail to have been moved by all the images of people on their doorsteps clapping for the NHS last night? They filled TV screens and news websites, presenting a warming picture of solidarity in enforced solitude – all alone yet all together. But there are some far less reassuring images circulating on social media. Some people are saying we now all exist inside an Edward Hopper painting. It doesn’t seem to matter which one.
I’m currently re-reading this coffee table book about the guy and enjoyed Brain Pickings’ recenttweets about him, so it was sad to read that one of his paintings has just been stolen.
Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum closed by virus – ABC News
“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” said Singer Laren museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm. “This beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists stolen – removed from the community,” he added. “It is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”
Problems for museums over here, too.
Anish Kapoor fan gets stuck in virtual exhibition – The Art Newspaper
A man had to be rescued by the London Fire Brigade after getting lost while taking part in a virtual museum tour. As museums worldwide have had to shut their doors to help fight the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), many institutions have instead put their creative efforts into online engagement with the public, including providing a plethora of virtual tours of their collections and exhibitions. Unfortunately, in some cases, not enough attention has been paid to the visitor experience.
The painting is now linked to a letter in which Van Gogh wrote that he had made a self-portrait which was “an attempt from when I was ill”. The artist had suffered a severe mental attack at the asylum in mid July 1889, when he tried to swallow paints, but by 22 August he had recovered sufficiently to write to his brother Theo, asking that he be allowed access to his painting materials. Van Tilborgh argues that the artist made the self-portrait a few days later, before he suffered a minor setback and was ill for a short period at the beginning of September.
“It is a very emblematic piece,” said auctioneer Gregoire Veyres. “The fact that it’s a gun, it’s an object of death. And if van Gogh is van Gogh, it’s because of his suicide and this gun is part of it.”
Van Gogh’s gun, ‘most famous weapon in art history’, sells for €162,500
The auctioned Lefaucheux pinfire revolver is almost certainly the weapon used, although this cannot be conclusively proved. The type of weapon, its calibre, its severely corroded state and the location and circumstances of the find strongly suggest it is the gun. In the evening of 27 July 1890 Van Gogh suffered a gunshot wound while in a wheatfield and he then staggered back to the inn, dying two days later.
There’s no escaping the selfie, they’re everywhere. But have we really stopped to consider them as an art form? Here’s a critique of this new genre, with some famous and infamous examples.
Art at arm’s length: A history of the selfie
In some way, selfies reach back to the Greek theatrical idea of methexis—a group sharing wherein the speaker addresses the audience directly, much like when comic actors look at the TV camera and make a face. Finally, fascinatingly, the genre wasn’t created by artists. Selfies come from all of us; they are a folk art that is already expanding the language and lexicon of photography. Selfies are a photography of modern life—not that academics or curators are paying much attention to them. They will, though: In a hundred years, the mass of selfies will be an incredible record of the fine details of everyday life. Imagine what we could see if we had millions of these from the streets of imperial Rome.
And here’s Jason Bailey from Artnome suggesting we could see Rembrandt as the Paris Hilton of his day…
Taking a break from their AI coverage, Artnome take us on an interesting journey through Van Gogh’s shifting colour schemes, busting a couple of myths as they go.
New data shows why Van Gogh changed his color palette
We were not convinced by the medical reasoning behind the shift in Van Gogh’s color palette and we could not think of any French Impressionists that painted with colors nearly as bold as Van Gogh, so we decided to take a look at some other possibilities.
Van Gogh was a restless soul and moved around quite a bit. He also spent a lot of time painting outdoors, especially in his later years. As someone who famously struggled with mood swings, we thought location, and more importantly, weather patterns may have impacted his use of color.
To test this, we created composite images averaging every painting Van Gogh created from each of the major locations he worked from and compared them to weather patterns from those regions. We think the results are quite remarkable.
Using data and technology like this is a fascinating way to learn more about works of art and the hidden narratives behind them.
Here’s a interesting idea, a film of reconstructed memories.
“No Blue Without Yellow” by artist Maciek Janicki
San Francisco-based artist and animator Maciek Janicki takes us into the world of Vincent van Gogh with his latest short film. Created in partnership with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, “No Blue Without Yellow” offers an immersive 3D tour, constructed using sampled paintings from consequential times in the renowned artist’s life.
Loving Vincent – Bringing the paintings of Van Gogh to life
“What is truly groundbreaking about “Loving Vincent” is that every frame of the film is an oil painting on canvas, using the very same technique in which Vincent himself painted. And what makes it a great story to experience is the intriguing, tragic, and inspiring story of Vincent Van Gogh himself.”
I’ve never really been tempted by anything on Kickstarter before, but this concept for ‘the first feature-length painted animnation’ on the people and events of Van Gogh’s life, based on his own letters and told through his own paintings, certainly has me intrigued. (Via)