Exploring the Van Gogh

Disclaimer: If you don't give a you-know-what about art or my uneducated opinions on it, feel free to quit reading now. This post is intended to give a small amount of insight into the vastly cultural experience that is studying abroad.

After finally gaining possession of my long-awaited Museumkaart, which grants me free access into 400+ museums in the Netherlands, some friends and I took our class-free Tuesday as an opportunity to check out the Van Gogh Museum. How très cultural of us, if you ask moi.

I love museums for the simple, nerdy fact that I love learning. I can't even say that I loved Van Gogh's work - it didn't speak to me the way it did for some of the friends I was with - but it was fascinating to learn about his life and the development of his artistic career, nonetheless.

Luckily, the museum contains more than just Van Gogh paintings. It also feature the work of artists that either inspired or were inspired by Van Gogh, and the entire upper two floors were devoted to showcasing the work of artist Felix Vallotten. The work of Valloten and, specifically, Monticelli spoke to me in a way that Van Gogh's did not, though I'll comment on at least one of each.

Some Aesthetic Musing I Felt Moved To Record in my iPhone Notes While At Van Gogh:

Landscape at twilight

by Van Gogh

Van Gogh meant to convey the "extreme loneliness" with this painting, even though he maintained the opinion that the countryside was "healthy and fortifying." This sentiment resonated me, I think, because I grew up in the relative "countryside" of southwest Washington and experienced this conflict of emotion about my surroundings, too. There is something strengthening about independence, which I think is conveyed in the beauty of this painting.

Almond blossom

by Van Gogh

This was my absolute favorite painting in the whole museum; I even bought the gift shop postcard. The way that Van Gogh captured the delicate, intimate nature of flowers was, in my opinion, one of his greatest strengths. I also loved what this painting symbolized;  Van Gogh's brother, Theo, and his wife gave birth to a son and named the boy in honor of Vincent. Van Gogh was so moved by this appropriation of his name that he created this painting to symbolize the new life of his nephew. #familyvalues

Still life of flowers

by Monticelli

The techniques in this painting were said to have inspired Van Gogh and help propel him into the few years he spent experimenting with color and quantity of paint in his art. In person, you can see the three-dimensional nature of the paint, as it was layered on very thickly. You can see every purpose-ladden brushstroke, and in a sense, it feels like you know the artist more intimately, to know exactly how his hand moved across the canvas. I thought it was so beautiful.

Felix Vallotten exhibit


I found Vallotton's paintings to be fascinating, especially when viewed through the socio-gendered lens through which he painted. Vallotton's paintings reflect his simultaneous fascination with and fear of women during the emancipation movement of the late 19th century. His many indoor scenes (like that above) hint at temptation and deception or take a voyeuristic approach to the nude female body. His fewer outdoor scenes depict women as the dominant and aggressive sex in relation to men. I walk away understanding that my personal preference for art is positively influenced by a cultural context around the work.