I was in the Musee d’Orsay last week. It sits virtually opposite the Louvre, on the banks of the Seine, and unlike the gargantuan Louvre, it’s digestible – sort of – in less than a day. Right now there is a wonderful exhibition dedicated to Van Gogh, specifically as he was perceived by the doomy caricature that is Antonin Artaud, in an essay entitled Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society.
There are stacks of brilliant works by Van Gogh there, many of them imported from elsewhere, including the subject of this post. He really was amazingly prolific and maintained an incredible level of quality in all genres. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is also a huge exhibition, considering it’s all about one artist (and is also a mandatory visit if you’re in town). Seriously, he was churning out one superb, innovative painting after another, in his shortish life. The intermittent hype along the lines of the ‘most expensive painting ever’ actually detracts from his unique brilliance as a creator.
He died in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, and that small place was the basis for quite a few paintings. The street scene here is just extraordinary in real life, the use of thick oils is perfect. The sky, the central steps forming a focal point in the centre, the long sloping green roof on the right. All perfect examples of a gift that’s almost impossible to pin down. 70 canvases completed in the last 70 days of his life, before he shot himself. This was one of them.