Friday, December 14, 2007

Van Gogh's Olive Trees and letters

The Morgan Library is currently exhibiting Painted With Words: Vincent van Gogh's Letters to Emile Bernard. At the bottom of this link is his "Olive Trees" of 1889 from the National Gallery of Scotland. This picture is a representation of the Garden of Gethsemane. I went this week to see it.

From a review of the exhibit in the NYSun:

Even before van Gogh's suicide in 1890, Bernard became one of the chief spokesmen for van Gogh. He wrote about the artist, mounted shows of his work, and published his letters.

This is all despite the fact that van Gogh broke off relations with Bernard, seemingly a lost cause, because he had begun painting illustrative, sentimental religious scenes. In the last letter van Gogh chastised his protégé: After a long description, in which van Gogh personifies the colors in one of his own paintings, he warns: "It is — no doubt — wise, right, to be moved by the Bible." However, "to give an impression of anxiety, you can do it without heading straight for the historical garden of Gethsemane; in order to offer a consoling and gentle subject it is not necessary to depict the figures from the Sermon on the Mount."

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