On a recent Sunday, we had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at the incredible Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. We were thrilled to discover that a small collection of Van Gogh paintings were there on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. As we get closer to releasing our own Van Gogh bottles and drinkware, we have become even more fascinated by the genius of Van Gogh. Having this opportunity to see some of his works was quite a treat.
When looking at Van Gogh's The Bedroom in books, it may seem somewhat one-dimensional, but having the chance to spend time gazing at it in person completely transforms the piece, in our opinion. During the time in which he painted The Bedroom, Van Gogh found himself in a rare moment of hope and optimism as he dreamed of creating a new artist community, having moved from Paris to Arles in 1888.
He named his new house "The Studio of the South" and he deemed his bedroom one of the most important rooms in the house. Despite the simplicity of the room (which reflects his poverty), Van Gogh kept his most treasured belongings in the bedroom, including portraits of friends on the walls along with other art that was deeply meaningful to him.
The bed conveyed for him "a feeling of solidity, of permanence of tranquility." And Van Gogh was an absolute genius with color. This painting in particular showcases the colors that were so meaningful to him-- the pale violet of the walls, the greens on the window and the floors, the yellows of the bed and the chairs which the artist likened to "fresh butter."
He is known to have said, "color is to do everything"-- in other words, there are few things more important than color when creating art. There is something very peaceful and tranquil about this particular piece. Van Gogh once said of The Bedroom: "Looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination." It's hard for us as viewers not to let our imaginations wander, but we like the idea that this piece's intention was largely to convey calmness and serenity.
We also enjoyed getting lost in two of his portraits (Van Gogh's use of color is truly transcendent, so distinctive and eye-catching, in these two pieces!)-- portraiture is skill for which Van Gogh is much admired. He once said that portraits were "the only thing in painting that moves me deeply and gives me a sense of the infinite."
He also used portraiture as one of his main sources of income. His dream was to create portraits that would "endure" and through his use of color, he could convey feeling and emotion, rather than the "realism of a photograph." Interestingly, the portrait seen below of his own mother was painted from a photograph, as he rarely had the people to whom he was closest in his life sit for portraits.
We especially loved watching people's reactions to Van Gogh's paintings. As we enjoyed the paintings ourselves, we would overhear people talking about the colors, the brilliance of the brushstrokes, and how each piece evokes conversation and thought. There's a feeling when you see a master's art in person, works that you've only seen in textbooks, that's truly magical. You are transported and you imagine you can get inside the artist's head...an impossible feat, but one can try.