Saturday, March 7, 2009
Van Gogh in South Carolina
Van Gogh doesn't often get to my birth-state of South Carolina (neither do I, for that matter, I haven't lived there since I was two). But he's there now, with a single painting included in the exhibition "Turner to Cézanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales" at the Columbia Museum of Art (through June 7th). The most expensive show ever mounted at the museum, with a price tag of $550,000, the exhibit also features works by Monet, Renoir, and Manet -- and of course Turner and Cézanne.
The Van Gogh painting in question is this one, "Landscape at Auvers in the Rain," done in July 1890, not long before Vincent's death at Auvers-sur-Oise (click image to enlarge). Scenes of rain are uncommon in his oeuvre, and that alone makes this painting interesting. It's one of a passel of pictures done of wheatfields while Vincent lived in Auvers, pictures that he believed showed the vitality and vigor of the countryside. It's also in the so-called "double-square format" (50 x 100 cm), a canvas size/shape that Vincent began newly working with while in Auvers. Note in particular the strong use of the complementary color pair blue and orange, which makes the landscape seem vibrant even in the rain.
If you visit Auvers-sur-Oise, look carefully at the cemetery wall as you are walking up the hill en route to paying homage to Vincent and Theo. You will find a poster of this canvas, marking the exact spot where Vincent stood as he painted it, near the edge of the cemetery, gazing out over the Oise river valley.