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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Van Gogh a Loner? Think Again

DEN BOSCH, The Netherlands – Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has gone down in history as a loner but a new exhibition that launched Saturday aims to dismantle this myth by highlighting the artist’s most intimate circle.

The legend of van Gogh tells the story of an artist who lived as an eccentric loner, marginalized and unappreciated, and who died alone and tormented after being shot with his gun.

But a new exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum challenges this notion which erases the Dutch post-impressionist’s brothers, friends, lovers, models and fans from his life story.

“He, indeed, had friends and long-lasting relationships as well.

“He has always been put in a corner as a lonely artist and that had a lot to do with the books and films that appeared after his death, from the twentieth century onwards,” curator of 19th and early 20th-century art, Helewise Berger, told Efe.

The exhibition highlights that the artist was a complex, obsessive and demanding person, but also sensitive to everything around him, particularly nature which heavily featured in his paintings.

A total of 99 paintings, letters, photos, poetry books and drawings present a graphic journey of the most important people in van Gogh’s life.

From his time in Brabant and The Hague, to his Paris stint and period in southern France, to his tragic death in Auvers-Sur-Oise where syphilis and mental illness ended his life, the show tells a vibrant tale of the painter’s travels and life.

“He moved very frequently, something that was related to his career, but also with his parents, who moved to different villages,” the expert added.

Van Gogh (1853-1890) lived in twenty-four different places during his 37 years.

One of the artist’s most treasured spaces was what is now known as The Van Gogh Church, a Protestant parish located in the heart of Etten Leur where his father Theodorus van Gogh worked for seven years.

His father tirelessly tried to persuade him of the importance of faith, although the painter remained skeptical throughout his life.

This building, with nine colorful stained glass windows and a modern appearance, offers a fascinating insight into the lesser-known, but perhaps most important, period of Van Gogh’s life: the place where, in 1881, he decided to launch his career.

On a small balcony inside the church, octogenarian Michel Gottmerj plays a wooden organ built in Breda in 1699.

Gottmerj told Efe that the artist and his father played this instrument when they went to the parish, and that is why today it is part of the heritage of the city.

Despite his bad relationship with them, his parents supported him until his death and always offered a home in Holland, money and encouragement to pursue his creative ambitions.

His mother taught him to draw and passed on her love for literature and nature to him.

Van Gogh’s uncle Cent secured him his first job in The Hague, and his cousin Anton Mauve – a famous artist at the time – gave him drawing and painting lessons.

It was during these classes that the famous painting Still Life with a Straw Hat (1881) emerged.

When he left his homeland, he continued writing letters to his family, and from then on only met with his brother Theo, his confidante, on a few occasions.

Van Gogh made a unique portrait of his brother, when he was in Paris, also part of this exhibition.

He had a complicated love life marked by his impossible love for his cousin Kee Vos which tormented him his entire life.

He had a short-lived relationship with his neighbor Margot Begemann and social pressures forced him to end his relationship with former sex worker Sien Hoornik.

Van Gogh fell in love for the last time with Agostina Segatori, owner of Cafe du Tambourinin Paris, where he exhibited his canvasses.

The Dutch painter had his heart broken on several occasions and when his brother witnessed the effect this had on van Gogh, he advised him to devote himself exclusively to his practice. And that he did.

Although the artist never had much money he resorted to using volunteer models for his creations, including the Roulins in Arles (southern France) and the Groot-van Rooij family in Nuenen (Holland).

Adrianus Zuyderland, who lived in an older people’s home, featured in several paintings, including At Eternity’s Gate (1890).

Van Gogh left a rich legacy of his personal life in images.

He was prolific at self-portraiture but he also painted his friends, family, admirers and other fellow artists, such as Anthon van Rappard, Anton Mauve, Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin and Paul Signac, all of which take pride of place at the Den Bosch exhibition.


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