A Letter From Vincent

Over the course of his life, Vincent van Gogh wrote many letters. Of them, 903 of them survive to this day, and can be seen in various galleries and museums around the world.

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ABOVE: Letter to John Peter Russell, 1888, Reed pen and ink on wove paper, 8 x 10.4 inches, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City

The surviving letters of Vincent van Gogh provide an interesting glimpse into his life and work. Here is one he wrote to his friend and painter Émile Bernard on Thursday, April 12, 1888:

My dear old Bernard,

Thanks for your kind letter and the croquis of your decoration included with it, which I find really amusing. I sometimes regret that I can’t decide to work more at home and from the imagination. Certainly — imagination is a capacity that must be developed, and only that enables us to create a more exalting and consoling nature than what just a glance at reality (which we perceive changing, passing quickly like lightning) allows us to perceive.

A starry sky, for example, well — it’s a thing that I’d like to try to do, just as in the daytime I’ll try to paint a green meadow studded with dandelions.

But how to arrive at that unless I decide to work at home and from the imagination? This, then, to criticize myself and to praise you.

At present I’m busy with the fruit trees in blossom: pink peach trees, yellow-white pear trees.I follow no system of brushwork at all; I hit the canvas with irregular strokes which I leave as they are, impastos, uncovered spots of canvas — corners here and there left inevitably unfinished — reworkings, roughnesses; well, I’m inclined to think that the result is sufficiently worrying and annoying not to please people with preconceived ideas about technique.

Here’s a croquis, by the way, the entrance to a Provençal orchard with its yellow reed fences, with its shelter (against the mistral), black cypresses, with its typical vegetables of various greens, yellow lettuces, onions and garlic and emerald leeks.

While always working directly on the spot, I try to capture the essence in the drawing — then I fill the spaces demarcated by the outlines (expressed or not) but felt in every case, likewise with simplified tints, in the sense that everything that will be earth will share the same purplish tint, that the whole sky will have a blue tonality, that the greenery will either be blue greens or yellow greens, deliberately exaggerating the yellow or blue values in that case. Anyway, my dear pal, no trompe l’oeil in any case. As for going to visit Aix, Marseille, Tangier, no fear; if I were to go there, though, it would be in search of cheaper lodgings, &c. Otherwise, I’m convinced that if I worked my whole life, couldn’t do as much as half of all that is characteristic of this town alone.

By the way, have seen bullfights in the arenas, or rather, simulated fights, seeing that the bulls were numerous but nobody was fighting them. But the crowd was magnificent, great multicoloured crowds. One on top of the other on 2, 3 tiers, with the effect of sun and shade and the shadow cast by the immense circle. Wish you bon voyage— handshake in thought, your friend

Vincent

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The Biggest Art Show to Come to Toronto in Years

Sometimes, a show comes around that is so popular, everyone wants in on the action. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors appears to be that show. The buzz around it is insane.

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ABOVE: Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013, wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water, 113.25 x 163.5 x 163.5 inches

From the art of the Barnes Foundation, to the works of the Musée Picasso, I’ve seen some incredible exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario. While they’ve often been well attended, they’re all likely to be eclipsed by Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. The demand for this show is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Usually, I get tickets via my fiancé (who volunteers at the gallery), but for this exhibition, even they aren’t getting any. No, I’m going to have to go online when the next block of tickets becomes available, and if I’m lucky enough to get them, take time off work to visit the gallery on a weekday. Oh well, I’ve had a good run.

If you’re fortunate enough to have tickets to this, know that you are one of a lucky few. And please, don’t make this the only art show you visit this year.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is at the Art Gallery of Ontario from March 3 to May 27, 2018.

How to See by David Salle

On my long ride into work this morning I finished David Salle’s book “How to See”. While everything is still fresh in my head, here is a very short review.

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For those unfamiliar with Dave Salle, he is an American painter who rose to prominence in the early 1980’s with bright, graphical artworks that bear a strong resemblance to Robert Raushenberg. His book “How to See” contains several short essays about his famous artists friends and their work.

While not overly academic, the book may be a little dry – if not pretentious – for the casual art fan. For the practicing artist however, it provides a unique look into the mind of an extremely successful painter, and shows how someone in the “in crowd” looks at, and judges art.

With the exception of a few digs (specifically one against Oscar Murillo), the tone of this book is largely upbeat. It is obvious that Salle knows a great deal about the art world and the creative process.

I liked all the essay’s, but I especially liked the one titled “A Talk for the First Day of Class.” It contains a series of questions and exercises, some serious, some not.

If your a fan of David Salle, or a fan of art in general, I suggest you pick up a copy.

Goals for 2018

Direction is important, so every January, I take a look at the previous year and write a list of goals for the new one. Below, is my list for 2018. Happy New Year!

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  • Continue work on my latest project
  • Reduce production costs
  • Expand distribution channels
  • Develop and increase brand awareness
  • Find new clients
  • Develop networking skills
  • See more local art shows
  • Visit more galleries outside of Toronto
  • Develop business skills

Four Masterpieces

Here are four of the most recognizable artworks I’ve seen in the last couple of years. In the future, I plan on seeing a few more and I’ll be sure to post those as well.

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ABOVE: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, The Phillips Collection, Washington DC

ABOVE: Claude Monet, The Japanese Footbridge, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

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ABOVE: J. M. W. Turner, The Slave Ship, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

ABOVE: Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston