Today Leo’s Rabbit visited Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and explored expressive, colourful work and eventful life of Vincent Van Gogh. Throughout the exhibition Rabbit followed in the footsteps (pawsteps) of an artist who was intent on improving himself and deeply engaged in the artistic developments of his day. He was an artist who above all strove to create a new kind of art. Rabbit thought that, indeed, he had succeeded in that quest, but as for the beauty of his art...? Rabbit is not quite sure...
He viewed Van Gogh’s artworks on display with mixed feelings. He certainly wasn't impressed with the artist's early efforts, especially some of the portraits. He thought that they expose lack of experience and technique. In some of the paintings, he noticed disfigured faces with big, unnatural noses. A lot of the other artworks looked to him like a kind that a secondary school student (or even a rabbit) would have painted. He wasn't also keen on bold colours, vigorous swirly brushwork and objects being often outlined with thick black lines. All in all, our ignorant small-town Rabbit didn't appreciate the works of Van Gogh, one of history's greatest artist. Well, what one small Rabbit knows about art anyway?
He felt however a huge admiration and respect for Van Gogh for his continuous quest to improve himself, his wide experiments with various styles and his persistence and perseverance in finding his own unique identity as an artist. Van Gogh found his true calling as an artist at the age of 27. Without knowing whether he had any real talent, he set to work with unbridled drive and great determination. He thought himself the rudiments of the craft by studying the art of others. He worked furiously and in his short life, he produced over 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings.
Rabbit also liked the fact that Van Gogh was trying to find the beautiful and the magical in the every day, often choosing as the subjects of his studies ordinary, hard-working people. He focused on peasants' life and their honest and humble existence in the face of encroaching industrialisation. His paintings also convey his love for the nature, that Rabbit certainly shares with the artist. He really appreciated a series of paintings of Orchards in Blossom, but wasn't that kin on a famous Vase of Irisis painting.
Rabbit was saddened to learn about Van Gogh's struggles with mental illness that eventually led him to his suicide at age of 37. The first in a series of artist's mental breakdowns occurred couple of years prior to his death when his friend, Paul Gauguin, came to visit him in Arles. Their personalities clashed, and after a quarrel, Gauguin left the house. He later claimed that Van Gogh had pursued him and threatened him with a razor. After returning home, in a state of a total confusion, Van Gogh cut off his left ear. Rabbit held his ears tight listening to this terrifying story.
In spite of his mental illness, often accompanied by anxiety and hallucinations, Van Gogh did show a tremendous appetite for work and he produced hundreds of paintings in his final months. Was his creativity driven by his mental illness? Who knows...?
The painting thought to be Van Gogh's last, found unfinished in his study, is the one of Tree Roots. At first sight Rabbit thought it is a jumble of bright colours and fanciful abstract forms, but after a closer look he realised that, indeed, it shows a slope with tree trunks and roots.
Our small-town Rabbit was grateful for the opportunity to explore Van Gogh's artworks and he enjoyed his visit to the museum. He did not, however, develop admiration for artist's style and use of colours, and to the terror of numerous art experts, who proclaim Van Gogh as one of the greatest artists of all times and a forerunner of the expressionist movement in 20th-century art, Rabbit could not understand popularity of the artist.
Leo's Rabbit 'lives' in my handbag and he travels with us everywhere we go. He has pictures taken at various locations, tourist attractions and places we visit. As a part of this blog we will describe Leo's Rabbit Travels to share our personal experiences from these visits. Hopefully couple of people (apart from us :-) ) will find it interesting and may even feel encouraged to visit one of Rabbit's destinations.