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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Of Poppy Flowers and Starry Nights: Vincent Van Gogh

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” ~ Francis Bacon ~

When the Anglo-Irish artist, Francis Bacon spoke those words, he was obviously referencing his own avant- garde style of figurative painting, which caused many to wonder what inner turmoil produced his emotionally wrenching pictures. But, Bacon’s quote is even more meaningful today as it points to another artist who was also an enigma during his lifetime, and even more so in the years following his death - Vincent Willem van Gogh, the 19th century Dutch post Impressionist painter.

Van Gogh’s life, like Bacon’s was tortured in many ways. Over the years, theories as to Van Gogh’s genius versus his mental condition have been speculated, attributing his erratic lifestyle and paintings to conditions such as Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and Bipolar disorder along with his dietary tastes for absinthe and lead paint; the former substance causing one to see objects in the color yellow while the latter poison contributes to retinal swelling, which might explain the halo effects around light in his pictures.

The mystery of Van Gogh’s life and subsequent suicide at the age of 37 was overshadowed this weekend, with the questionable heist of his painting (pictured in this post) known as “Poppy Flowers,” or alternately referred to as “Vase and Flowers.”

Lifted in broad daylight, on Saturday, August 21, the 12 inch by 12 inch (30 centimeters. by 30 centimeters) painting, valued at $55 million (43,293,470 euros), was literally cut out of its frame, disappearing from the Mahmoud Khalil Modern Art Museum in Cairo, Egypt.

It has been reported that the museum’s alarms were malfunctioning and only seven surveillance cameras out of 43 were in working order, which is practically an open invitation, and IMHO it definitely smells like and inside job.

Ironically, this is the second time Poppy Flowers has been stolen from the same museum; the last burglary occurred in 1978, and the canvas went missing for two years until it, and the thieves were apprehended in Kuwait.

The disappearance of Poppy Flowers, though not as shocking to the art world as Vincenzo Peruggia’s theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre 99 years ago, rivals the mysterious twice-stolen Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in 1994 and 2004 from the National Gallery, Oslo, Norway and then later from the Munch Museum.

Both The Scream and Mona Lisa were eventually found; the fate of Poppy Flowers remains uncertain at this time and was erroneously reported as recovered, but the official statement was recanted yesterday and the entire affair remains a mystery under investigation.

Also a mystery as to why this particular painting was so appealing to thieves as it is not considered as important as Van Gogh’s magnum opus, “The Starry Night,” which was popularized in the 1971 song, "Vincent" by Don McLean, who was deeply touched by Van Gogh’s life story after reading a biography about the artist.

To learn more about Van Gogh’s life, there is an outstanding and comprehensive website covering all his artistic works, writings, and complete biography at The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery, which is endorsed by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

To hear McLean’s beautiful song and view many of Van Gogh’s paintings, simply click on the video below from MrAdamBurns Youtube channel. The haunting words and music are synced beautifully to Van Gogh’s images.


BarryGillogly said...

Wheels within wheels... nicely done.

Single and Sane said...

I've always loved Van Gogh's work, and the haunting melody of McLean's song. Thanks for sharing both with us!


arlee bird said...

Van Gogh's story is one of the more fascinating, and more tragic stories of the art world. His artistic vision, whether caused by any substance, mental condition, or pure imagination, was truly unique and beautiful.
McLean's song is so appropriate for Vincent--it was a worthy tribute.

Tossing It Out

Paula Slade said...

Barry - Thank you!

Margaret - Van Gogh has always been a favorite of mine too.

Lee - Just as Van Gogh captured the world around himself in oil, McLean certainly captured Vincent's essence in his music.