Thursday, August 14, 2008

From the Ground Up

The Potato Eaters
Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A short discussion of this work by a Princeton undergrad emphasizes the ugliness not only of the figures in the painting but of the painting itself. It also states that it "is not a pretty picture at all"

I would hasten to disagree. This is not an ugly painting. While van Gogh is exposing the realities of the lower class from the light cast by one small lamp, to the simplicity of the meal they dug with their own hands to the dirty and drawn faces of the family, the care and attention to bringing significant life to a scene unfamiliar to art goers of the late 19th century gives it a sincere beauty. I understand the use of "pretty" references paintings such as Starry Night and many of the popular van Goghs we are more familiar with but I would also be be hesitant to attribute the term even to those works.

You will surely be seeing more van Gogh here as time goes on, I already have one filed away for animate inanimate object week. His work is strides beyond pretty pictures.

The discussion I reference is part of a pretty great project for an undergraduate class at Princeton. The students were required to create virtual exhibits for their writing seminar on Impressionism & the Making of Modernism. Gosh, I started college with a typewriter in tow!

1 comment:

erik said...

I love the palette in this. I agree. Not a pretty picture - gorgeous. Earthy. The tone of the painting reflects the subjects beautifully.