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June 20, 2007
I hadn’t realised the scale of Van Gogh’s work until I visited this museum. In just ten years (1880-1890) he produced over 900 paintings, many of which were on display. Hung alongside paintings by his contemporaries such as Gauguin, Monet, Manet, Alma-Tadema and Courbet, his work illustrates the developing styles and techniques that were popular in Holland and France in the late nineteenth century.
I was particularly interested in learning about the Japanese influence. In a letter to Theo, Van Gogh wrote that all impressionists share a love of Japanese painting. Certainly, throughout the galleries, the proliferation of bright colours, wide brush strokes, blossom trees, and wide decorative frames evidenced this. After watching the Van Gogh episode of Simon Schama’s The Power of Art was touched by the story of Van Gogh’s struggles and ultimate failure to achieve his vision of setting up a house where artists could work together in harmony. I hadn’t previously realised that the artistic communities he envisioned were based on Japanese models. It made me wonder whether groups in England such as the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood also based their ideas of existing together in an artistic circle on the Japanese. It’s something I’ll have to look into.
Van Gogh painted Pieta in 1889, during his confinement at the hospital in Saint-Rémy. It is a variation of Delacroix’s painting of the same subject rather than an original composition. What stood out for me though, especially after seeing all the self-portraits Van Gogh had done of himself, was the similarity between Christ’s features and his own. Jesus is even given reddish hair in the painting. Is this because Van Gogh identified with the suffering of Christ, because he saw himself as a redeeming figure in the art world, or because he wanted to imitate Christ?
Alongside The Potato Eaters, Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows was the painting that I was most interested to see in the museum. For such a small painting, the density of its brush strokes and the bright yet ominous combination of colours were the first things that struck me. It is as difficult viewing the painting in reality to tell whether the crows are coming or going or whether the path is leading us, with the artist, away or towards the thunderous looking sky.
NB- Just click on the paintings to go to the museum’s website where they are given short explainations.
The exhibition, Fashion Palaces 1880-1960, in Amsterdam’s Historical Museum gives a fascinating insight to the emergence of the fashion industry from the end of the nineteenth century. The focus of the exhibition is on Amsterdam’s first fashion houses and department stores. The costumes displayed throughout give an idea of changing designs and tastes among Amsterdam’s elite.
Interviews with fashion designers, architects of the fashion palaces and customers (all fortunately subtitled in English) provide insights into the fashion industry of the time- which ranged from luxurious couture fashion and ready-to-wear clothing to shopping for items in department stores. Perhaps the most interesting discussions were about the massive surveys undertaken in which designers hoped to find a series of sizes that matched the sizes of most of the population. Surprisingly, this hadn’t previously been done and most of the clothes brought ready-to-wear or off the shelf had to be altered.
March 27, 2007
Last week I attended a five day UK Grad School in Windermere. I spent a couple of days beforehand having a look around the area since, as I anticipated, most of the course was spent inside the hotel. I hope to write a bit more about the experiences I benefited from whilst away but for now I thought I’d just post a few of the pictures I took.