Vincent's Yellow

a[n] [auto]biography and a love story.


I went to Basel, Switzerland for one day. Basel was one of the later additions to my trip; it was a bit out of my way, but they had organized an exhibition of seventy of Vincent’s landscapes. All landscapes! I was thrilled to go, although I must admit I was in that city for less than twenty-four hours, and thus did not really get to enjoy it, per se. Yet once I arrived in Basel, I knew it had been worth it. Not only was the exhibition (which only lasted five months) mentioned in every piece of touristic paraphernalia handed to me, but there was also this:


Much of my journey had already felt like a quest, but here in Basel there were markers to guide me! I had been concerned about getting lost on my way to the museum (I arrived tired, ate quickly – and at a Starbucks, how terrible – all in order to get to the museum as fast as possible), but the city had marked the way. It was a brief but unique pilgrimage from the train station to the museum.

I arrived there at 2pm, the museum closed at 7pm. I had five hours for seventy paintings. I set my eyes very open, and tried to absorb every bit of you. In some ways, it was fortunate that they did not allow photography, otherwise I might have gone crazy. As it is, I wrote fourteen pages in those five hours – which is a lot! I must admit they read like one long letter to you. I did not leave the galleries for five hours, did not take a break, and lingered until the guards asked us to leave, until I had energy for nothing else but to sigh, again and again.

No expense was spared here, and that was reflected in both the ticket price, and the lobby installation.

A giant video installation floated above the crowd in the lobby, projected on a circular band hanging from the ceiling. On it was projected images, video and text summing up your biography. I found out from a museum guard that this enormous thing was created solely for this exhibition, and that it would come down after it ended. I think it was around then that I understood just how much money had gone into this museum’s endeavor, just how much you are worth now, Vincent… I imagined the complete awe such a sight would provoke in you.

Now Reader, a quote from my journal. It’s all I have to offer… The exhibition was in chronological order, which allowed the viewer to follow your footsteps, Vincent, and watch the gradual transformations as you grew into your own style.

And then, ’87 continues into thicker paint, more impasto, longer strokes, darker and lighter colors together, bouncing back and forth. Entrance of Voyer-d’Argenson Park at Asnières (1887) is truly a delight. I love the two ladies, in almost ultra-violet colors: bright white-green and blues, and sea foam, too.

You get increasingly free, looser, wider; leaves are now sometimes floating strokes of green hovering around that violet, mauve branch. Lighter and lighter colors, and now canvas is peeking out, bare and naked skin. I suppose, at least at first, Paris obviously opened you up, and you opened her up, too.

[Audio guide] on Restaurant de la Sienère at Asnières: “His brushwork too, has clearly changed. The color application is no longer smooth and even. Instead, strokes have been applied loosely, next to each other. This is reminiscent of the pointillists, who depicted objects with an abundance of individual tiny colored dots, placed next to each other. The technique of pointillism demands great precision. In contrast, Van Gogh’s brushwork is always spontaneous.”

Mon, November 16 2009 » Popular Culture, Research, Travel

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