Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stormy Weather (Part One)

The rainy season in Florida has begun. It's amazing: the faucet gets turned off around October/November, we get minimal rain for months, then creak! The faucet gets turned back on in early summer, and every day somebody's dodging popup thunderstorms. The sea-winds decide who gets them, and if it's you, get ready for a soaking and a spectacular sound-and-light show. Not for nothing is Tampa Bay called the Lightning Capital of the World.

In honor of rainy season, I thought I'd post a couple of Vincent's storm-themed paintings, one from the beginning of his career, one from the end. Today's piece is "View of the Sea at Scheveningen" from August 1882, not long after Vincent ventured from only drawing into painting with oils. It's a small canvas (34 x 51 cm), one he intended as practice, not to be shared outside his studio. In fact, he left it behind, along with others, after leaving his parents' home in Nuenen in 1885. It made its way to the art market after his death, and eventually, to the Van Gogh Museum. (But see below...)

Vincent wrote to Theo about this and another seascape: "...I've gone out to Scheveningen several times to have a look at it [the 'angry storm' system attacking the Netherlands]. And brought back two little seascapes. There's quite a bit of sand in one already; as for the other, I had to scrape it off completely twice beause of the amount of sand that had gotten into it--it was really storming and the sea had almost reached the dunes. The wind was blowing so hard I could barely stand or see through the whirling sand." Typical Vincent, to brave the elements for a painting. (He would later put up with mistral in Provence best as he could.) When the Van Gogh Museum curators x-rayed "View of the Sea," they found sand imbedded in the surface layer of paint, testimony to Vincent's description of his experience.

I’d tell you to look for this painting at the Van Gogh Museum, but you can’t—it was stolen in December 2002 and has yet to be recovered. In early 2003, the museum was offering a substantial reward for information leading to the safe recovery of this painting and the other stolen in the same theft (“Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen”), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the offer was still good. Give ‘em a call if you see it.

For more on this painting, see the excellent catalogue, "Vincent van Gogh Paintings, Volume I: Dutch Period, 1881-1885, Van Gogh Museum," eds. Louis van Tilborgh and Marije Vellekoop (VGM, 1999), cat. 2, pp. 36-42.


Julianne Douglas said...

It's funny, our rainy season is the opposite. It rains like crazy from November through April, then nary a raindrop all summer long. Coming from the midwest, this took some getting used to. Sometimes I long for a good summer thunderstorm, although these days it would probably come complete with a tremendous tornado...

Sheramy said...

I remember experiencing my first FL storm when I was brought down for campus interview in 2001. I jumped out of bed (this one was at night) and thought the sky must surely be falling with all that lightning! I'm used to it now, and I enjoy the summer rain as long as I don't have to drive in it or get my feet wet.

Do you have relatives back in the midwest suffering from the floods? I hope not!

Julianne Douglas said...

They're all in St. Louis. I think at this point everyone's okay, although I should call tomorrow and check. Last time I checked the news, the river was cresting at Hannibal, a cute little town of Mark Twain fame. I hope everything survived there!