Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Van Gogh: I Worked and I Was Alone

Last week, my sister, the girls, and I visited Fernbank Science Museum in Atlanta to see the IMAX film, Van Gogh: brush with genius. It was fantastic.

I have to admit, I've never been a huge van Gogh fan. I've always leaned more toward realistic paintings, like those of Vermeer, for example. And for me (as well for many others, I expect), the myth of the artist eclipsed his actual creations. Yet when I was in London last, I stood before several van Goghs and was drawn to riot of colors, the thick daubs of paint, the energy of each work, and I came away bemused. Perhaps there was more to this than I'd previously thought. After I saw the film, I changed my mind.

I did not know (perhaps you did) that van Gogh painted more than 900 works in his brief, nine-year career. Like many of whom we later label "genius," his obsession with his work necessitated a grossly unbalanced life, which led to severe solitude, exhaustion, and, finally, suicide.

The IMAX film is beautiful, and the original soundtrack is a perfect backdrop. The storyline follows two people, a filmmaker in France working on a film about van Gogh's life and work, and a researcher in Amsterdam studying his private letters and documents. Tying the two together is a voiceover portrayal of van Gogh, which lends a personal aspect to the film. Like many IMAX films, this one employs a few cinematography tricks, some of which are successful and some of which it could have lost with no ill effects. I especially enjoyed the time-lapse effect used in the museum scenes: hundreds of visitors zipping by a painting as the painting itself remains the same, unchanged.

The girls, of course, were not as enthusiastic as my sister and I were, although they enjoyed it and could talk about particular things they liked. But I am confident that, as we study van Gogh further, their appreciation will grow. It was the same with our studies of Monet and Sargent. I'm amassing resources now.

Dover's 24-postcard collection, Van Gogh's Paintings, is a must for us. I've also reserved at our library two children's books: Camille and the Sunflowers and Katie and the Sunflowers. There are several online printables and coloring pages, such as Starry Night coloring page, which we may or may not explore. Sometimes the girls still enjoy this activity, other times not.

There are other online resources, such as this interactive page of Sunflowers at London's National Gallery and another of Van Gogh's Chair. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has a superb website, but it's in Dutch. No worries; I translated it into English using the Google Toolbar translator.

My hope is to ignite an interest in my girls for this artist, an interest that will grow into a real appreciation, as it has for me.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this post! We also have studied van Gogh this year, I also wasn't crazy about him at first, but I, too, have come to appreciate his creativity. Our favorite book about him is "Vincent Van Gogh" by Isabel Kuhl. But what everyone at my house loved was vangoghgallery.com. I've posted about van Gogh with videos from the site at: http://www.worldstaracademy.com/2010/02/starry-nights.html.

    As good as books and the internet are, though, I envy your IMAX experience! Thanks for sharing about it!


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