Monday, September 22, 2008

Van Gogh's Night Poet

Vincent Van Gogh
Eugène Boch (the Poet)
23 5/8 x 17 11/16" oil on canvas 1888
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Bequest of Eugène Boch through the
Société des Amis du Louvre, 1941
Photo: Musée d'Orsay, Paris, Reunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource

"It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly coloured than the day."
-Vincent van Gogh
Arles September 8, 1888

In his letters Van Gogh describes the genesis of his portrait of the poet:

"I should like to paint the portrait of an artist friend, a man who dreams great dreams.... I paint him as he is, as faithfully as I can to begin with.

"But the picture is not yet finished. To finish it, I am now going to be the arbitrary colorist. I exaggerate the fairness of the hair, I even get to orange tones and pale citron yellow. Behind the head, instead of painting the ordinary wall of the mean room, I paint infinity, a plain background of the richest, intensest blue that I can contrive, and by this simple combination of the bright head against the rich blue background, I get a mysterious effect, like a star in the depths of an azure sky."
- Vincent Van Gogh, 11 August 1888, Letters 3:6.

Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night is featured in an online exhibition at the MOMA site: Van Gogh's Night Paintings at MOMA

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