Vincent John Doe. It was overwhelming, the amount of great and iconic work we saw in this collection. I was blown away that the fact that the Detroit Institute of Art was the first museum in America to buy a Van Gogh. And that Detroit was a key turning point in all the effort made by Van Gogh’s Sister in law and her daughter. It was a long, difficult evolution from obscurity to his acceptance as the great artist he was, in America.
I met an art history grad student at Oakland University there; she is doing her dissertation on Van Gogh. She pointed out that in all his drawings and paintings there were no depictions of animals other than the scribble of birds flying in the sky. I told her I was outraged and demanded my money back! No, JK. I didn’t, but isn’t that interesting, not even a sleeping cat! My friend Erica Chappuis did some research of her own and managed to discover a few examples of animals he painted early in his brief career.
I enjoy reverse engineering his paintings, trying to figure out which color was the last layer and working backwards into the painting to see what color was on top of what. It helps me feel his process. It was overwhelming the way the colors interact with the surface texture and vibrate in the retina. If you look closely the canvases in person, you can see when he painted over a previously dry area of the canvas, where he allowed himself time to reflect and make deliberate improvements to his work, hours or days after the initial effort. But the juxtaposition of colors to create a specific deliberate combination is so difficult to put into words. It is deeply methodical, yet so purely emotional. And the dazzling way his colors vibrate together takes my breath away. Ironically, there were a couple paintings we had just seen in Amsterdam this past summer, borrowed from the Van Gogh Museum for this exhibition.