Vincent Van Gogh. Even his name is harmonious. The alliteration of the vee’s, the even distribution of syllables – the sounds blend to create a product of perfection, and perfection is what Van Gogh produced.
Seventy paintings by the brilliant artist are on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Gallery of Art. The exhibit is the largest presentation of his works outside the Netherlands in 25 years. The beauty of a single Van Gogh piece captivates the viewer. But surrounded by 70 of his works, the feelings of excitement, awe and inspiration indescribably blend with the serenity and peace of mind the paintings elicit.
The task of describing to a reader the magnificence of a Van Gogh work is daunting – and unfair. No statement, no matter how eloquently phrased, could capture the essence of his works. Each word would humble Van Gogh’s art.
On a wall in the exhibit’s first room is a quote from a letter Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1882. He wrote, “I want to get to the point where people say of my work: That man feels deeply.” Van Gogh rose to a level beyond even that. His paintings radiate his passion and despair. Each work captures a piece of Van Gogh and thrusts this emotion at the viewer, forcing him or her to feel the same.
Each of the nine rooms of the exhibit feature less than eight works. None of the rooms overwhelm the viewer. Each room displays paintings from a specific period of Van Gogh’s life or a certain type of his work. The third room of the exhibit features eight self-portraits. These paintings, especially the artist’s eyes, mesmerize viewers and reveal the depths of Van Gogh’s personality.
Van Gogh is a master of art. His painting are amazing and vibrant. The exhibit at the National Gallery allows people – through the paintings – to walk through Van Gogh’s life and dive into his soul.
“Van Gogh’s Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum” continues in the National Gallery through Jan. 3, 1999. Admission to the exhibit is free, but passes are required for entry.