Lost in Time

Sunset_at_Montmajour_1888_Van_Gogh

About 4 years ago I was introduced to a show called Doctor Who. In case you aren’t familiar with the show it’s about a guy named the Doctor who travels around all of space and time in a blue police box called the TARDIS. One of my favorite episodes is when the Doctor travels back in time and meets Vincent van Gogh. The story of Vincent van Gogh’s life is very tragic and sad. One example being he never sold a painting until after he died. He suffered from severe anxiety and depression, but from this pain in his life he turned in into such beauty in his artwork. My favorite thing about that episode that is really beautiful is at the end the Doctor brings Vincent to the Musee d’Orsay in in Paris in the year 2010. He takes him to show him all of his own artwork on display, and while there the curator explains how he believes Van Gogh is the greatest painter to ever live. The story of his life has really stuck with me because I have dealt with mental illness in my family I know the pain that it brings and to still be able to create such beauty from that pain. This painting Sunset at Montmajour has a very interesting story. Originally in 1890 it was inventoried as his brother Theo van Gogh’s artwork, and it was sold in 1901 and there was no record of it until 1908 where it was purchased again by a man named Christian Nicolai Mustad. He believed that it was Vincent van Gogh’s artwork and displayed it in his home until a French ambassador told him it probably wasn’t so it was taken down and stored away until Mustad’s death. In 1990 it was brought to the staff at the Van Gogh Museum but they dismissed it because it wasn’t signed. But finally in 2011 a 2 year investigation took place to determine if it was an authentic Van Gogh. It wasn’t until September of 2013 that this painting was confirmed to be Vincent van Gogh’s artwork because there was a letter Van Gogh wrote to his brother describing  landscape that he had painted. The first thing about this painting that drew my attention to it was when it was first confirmed as a Van Gogh painting in the news all the Whovians, otherwise known as fans of Doctor Who, were saying there is a TARDIS in the background. Although the thing we all thought to be the TARDIS was actually the ruins of Montmajour Abbey, which makes a lot more sense, it was still nice to feel like there was a connection between my favorite show and this beautiful artwork. What I love about this painting is Van Gogh’s use of color to depict such beauty but it has such a rugged look and makes you focus more on the colors of the scene instead of the details of the scene. Sunset at Montmajour was painted in 1888, two years before Van Gogh’s controversial suicide. One thing you can tell when looking at this painting is that Van Gogh was in very good spirts because of his use of yellow. If you look through all of his paintings you can see the contrast between his happy paintings in which he uses yellow or his very dark and depressing paintings.

Questions:

  1. Why were people so quick to dismiss this piece and say that it wasn’t Van Gogh when his style is very clearly evident in this painting?
  2. Why did Van Gogh focus more on the land as his focus instead of the Montmajour Abbey?
  3. Why did Van Gogh not sell any paintings while he was alive?

Find more information at:

http://www.vangoghgallery.com/

Austin Carlquist

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9 thoughts on “Lost in Time

  1. Hey Austin, the reason why I think that the painting itself was not enough proof is because the proof is in the signature, or written in someway by the painter, or even a photo as well. A few months back Someone was selling M.J.’s original basketball shoes that he wore during a famous game and what backed up the shoes was the signature on the shoe and a photograph of Michael Jordan holding the shoes with the person he gave it to with dates and documents. Its like that with all famous people. Most painters don’t become famous or don’t sell paintings until they are dead. As odd as it sounds its true, its more of a legacy I guess. Reminds me of a tv show as well, an episode of ICARLY. Spencer is always trying to put his art in a museum or to sell it with no luck until he “dies” and his artwork value skyrocketed and was selling fast, probably not like that but it happens.

  2. You made this painting so relatable on many different levels. I actually remember the Dr. Who episode you referred too and I think it is hysterical that some fans thought Van Gogh included a replica of the TARDIS in his work!!! The brighter colors and lighter mood of this painting may be why he only showed a glimpse of the abbey. Because it was in ruins, maybe he didn’t want the focus to be on something that had been destroyed. The palate choice is uplifting and hopefully that is how he was feeling on that particular day. I think mental illness plays a big role in why many artists are unable to sell their pieces during their lifetimes. Even a couple of hundred years later, it’s unfortunate that society as a whole still has such difficulty dealing with diseases of the mind. Thank-you for such a great Blog, I really enjoyed it.

  3. Hi Austin!
    Awesome job with the Blog! I love when a person brings a sort of background of themselves into something they are doing academically, it makes the subject they are introducing much more exciting and it gives us a little more of an insight on who you are :). To answer your last question on why you think Van Gogh didn’t sell any of his paintings was because (and this is information I was taught during my Humanities class *laughs*)….he was never really taught how to paint, he is all self taught. Hence why maybe he wasn’t really taken seriously :/. Also when I went to the Art institute this summer I was able to see his painting up close and his brush strokes were not only aggressive with bold coloring, but they were also thick! I mean the paint was chunky texture, he never really evened it out across the canvas. Again his style was so foreign people might have not really cared for his work, sad isn’t it. But hey, if he would see where his paintings are now, he would be proud :).

    Also I totally want to see this Doctor Who Episode, thanks for sharing and again great job!

  4. Great job Austin! 😃

    I really like reading your blog post and I totally agree with Beatriz, it is very nice when people find a connection or similarity with their background on things like this. It keeps it more interesting and it gathers our attention even more; not that we are nosy to know about your background but we really enjoy reading the connection. I personally never heard or haven’t watch Doctor Who show, but base on how you describe it, I do have an idea of how it is. To answer your first question about people quickly dismissing the piece of art, I will also agree with Misael. The fact that it didn’t have any name or any type of signature on the print, it makes people wonder if it is original or not. We do that nowadays with different things and not just with works of art. Even if that was Vincent van Gogh style of painting, there could be someone else who also could of paint the same way, but it was very nice that it finally got recognized as his painting at the end. In regards to your second question, I personally believe that van Gogh was focusing more on the landscape because that is what he really likes and what caught his attention. Maybe he was more like a person who liked nature and everything around it and that was pure beauty for him. I wouldn’t blame him for that, a lot of artist in our present time do the same thing, some are more interesting on what is around the more noticeable thing and some aren’t. Finally, to answer your last question, I believe that Vincent van Gogh didn’t sell his paintings due to the lack of resources. As studies and research shows, he wasn’t a professional painter neither took painting classes, so maybe that had a lot to do with that. He basically learned how to paint on his own, and for me, that is more artistic and more created than when someone shows you how to do things. It is very sad that he was alive when his work of art was recognize and acknowledge, but he definitely had a very good style of painting. Once again, you did a great job on your blog post.👏👏👏👏

    Sincerely,

    Josshymart Torres

  5. Such an interesting blog Austin. I have never seen that episode of Dr Who, but how cool they thought to create such an episode. I really enjoyed this piece of art, especially bringing to my attention that you believe Van Gogh was in good spirits. That really makes me appreciate this painting so much more. Thank you for your insight!

  6. Great job Austin! I agree with everyone. Really like your life story and Doctor Who connection added to the subject, it makes it so much more interesting to the reader. I have not had a chance to see that episode, but can’t wait to catch up 😊. There are probably a lot of reasons why Van Gogh didn’t sell any of his painting within his lifetime – except one “the red vineyard”-let’s not forget. Besides mental illness, he was forced to leave school due to financial situation , then after getting fired several times from his occupations, and being hospitalized probably caused his lack of self confidence and depression. Which most likely did not help in being capable of selling his art . Also, There were stories that people thought that he was dangerous. I think All above factors made it really hard for him to be successful. Also I have this picture in my head of somebody trying to sell their art on streets and I don’t think it’s very profitable.

  7. This is a really beautiful picture. It’s really shocking that he was never able to sell any paintings till after he died. I feel like a lot of things get more hype after the people die. :/ My son is a really big doctor who fan so reading your blog was very interesting. I will have to check that episode out. Also my son agreed that it looks like a Tardis is in the background. 🙂

  8. Love the painting. I remember the buzz last year from fellow Whovian’s. I think the disbelief was at least partially the “to good to be true” factor, also maybe the experts’ immodesty in thinking they knew every Van Gogh. My only guess as to why he concentrated on the landscape rather than the ruins was that he wanted to paint something more upbeat. No matter how beautiful, I’d think it’d be hard to do so with ruins. I think you’re right that he was probably in good spirits at the time.

  9. I think his artwork is a lot like a lot of things actually. It sold after he died because there wouldnt have been anymore to come. The Three Stooges didn’t get any real recognition or awards until they passed… Its a beautiful piece by Van Gogh. I wouldn’t think it was one of his because most of the art of his I have seen are all dark and gloomy.

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