June 12th: Vincent (Van Gogh) Has My Ear…


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“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.”

~ Vincent van Gogh

This morning, Caroline and I went to see the Van Gogh Museum. We had been there years ago and the Museum has been modernized, but I was totally bumming out on the whole experience as so few works of his were on display; there was a part about the self-portraits, people who influenced him and painters whom he influenced, a part about his letters, and a great big part of selling Vincent paraphernalia. The Vincent van Gogh Museum has prostituted Vincent and it made me sad.

Over dinner with Will and Caroline we talked about this and Will had been there earlier this week: “Granted, I was a little high, so it was amazing…” he said, which he quickly qualified with “I liked how the different parts had a narrative, and it was about following the narrative and combining them with the paintings.” Point well made. Or maybe he just made that point because he wanted to order another beer and I was paying for dinner…

I was pleased to see Vincent’s letters have gained a larger prominence. Henry Miller loved those letters and has named Vincent as one of his big influences. The letters are not just letters from one brother to another, or the letters of a painter but they are literary. I remember reading them quite a while ago but I was equally impressed. Good writers may also paint but may not paint well and good painters may write but may not write as well as they paint, but this didn’t apply to Vincent. He wrote just as well as he painted.

Sadly, he hardly sold a painting or made any money from his letters.

And now, the lines in front of the Van Gogh Museum are almost as long as those in front of the Anne Frank Museum, and the once-obscure little Vincent may well be bigger than Rembrandt and Vermeer combined. What is Vincent’s appeal? Is it the mental illness? The ear? The explosion of color when he gets to the south of France? Is it the story of the unrecognized genius? Or is it that damn Don McClean with his starry, starry night?!

Anyway… after all the Vincent-mania, I dropped Caroline off at the Airbnb (she got my sore throat now) and I headed over to (Dutch) friends who, after 20 years or so in the US, just made the move from the US, back to the Netherlands.

Yes, they got out in time…

They live on a lovely house boat among grazing cows, voluminous Dutch skies (Marsman: de lucht hangt er laag) and country quiet. It was great to talk about new beginnings, impressions, ups and downs, life after America and the fear we both expressed, i.e. not wanting to grow old (and wanting) in the States. It’s not a country for old men. So yes, I’m checking real estate ads over here, and weighing the option of moving back. For real. Or rather, if we can afford it…

Opening the old laptop after dinner, I was flooded again with work requests — the kinds that say EOD (END OF THE DAY), meaning they have to be finished by the end of the day, but it was already my end of the day, while the day had only just started in California. Yikes. And I needed to fucking blog, and I haven’t even told you about my magical meeting with Peggy Stein of the Indische Kwestie yesterday, but that will find its sequel on and through The Indo Project. Launching into my work files, I thought back of Vincent, that sad little ear and his drive to paint and paint and paint, which came to an abrupt end with a gun shot to the chest.

I do have a wimpy life, compared to that, so stay tuned for more blog entries from a wimpy adult…

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