On a recent trip to Houston, Texas my step daughter Kim and I had occasion to visit the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. This is something I always do when in Houston as the museum here is world class and they always have great exhibitions. This time was no exception. On exhibit, much to our delight, were the paintings of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).
This exhibit highlights the artist’s early years in the Netherlands; his luminous period in Paris; his search for light and color in the South of France; and his exploration of nature as a source of enduring inspiration in Saint-Rémy and Auvers.
The exhibition showcases portraits, landscapes, and still lifes drawn primarily from the collections of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands.
The color yellow held a particular fascination for Vincent van Gogh. Experiencing the intense sunlight of the South he once wrote his brother Theo, in Paris, “Sunshine, a light which, for want of a better word I can only call yellow – pale sulfur yellow, pale lemon, gold.”
Van Gogh, who lived with a former prostitute for years in the Hague, was particularly sympathetic to these women cast out by society.
This picture was painted the day after Van Gogh was released from the hospital where he was being treated for the self inflicted injury to his ear. The book in the painting is a handbook of homeopathic medicine and the envelope belongs to a letter he had received from from his bother Theo.
Van Gogh had seen these women walking and described them in a letter to his brother Theo just a month before he died. It was in one of these Auvers wheat fields that he shot himself with a revolver on July 27, 1890.
Feeling to weak to live Van Gogh checked himself into The Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental hospital at St. Remy. in May 1889. He was allowed to paint out of doors, but was confined to the garden of the hospital where he painted several versions of this sous-bois of tree trunks and undergrowth.
There is little doubt that Vincent was a talented genius and a tortured soul. These magnificent master works are on display for all to see at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts through June 27.