Sights of Portugal: Van Gogh in Lisbon

I’m trying to get every single piece of cultural experience one can get outside of the house in times of pandemic. My reading is often simply not enough, so when I heard about an exhibition about the life of Vincent Van Gogh happening in Lisbon, I just had to go.

A few years ago I was in Amsterdam and visited the Museum dedicated to the life and work of the artist. This exhibition is organised by the official Van Gogh Museum. Probably aiming to bring his artistry closer to more. I was somewhat disappointed that there were no originals in the exhibition in Lisbon, but I quite liked the interactive way they take you through his life but, most importantly, emerge you in this works.

I’ve always felt attracted to his paintings. Even though full of colours and smudged borders, they seem close to reality, perhaps because they portrait the simple things of life. The image of a small bedroom, a simple jar of sunflowers, some already dying, a starry night, a yellow house.

That’s what I think of, when I think about Van Gogh. Simplicity. Regardless his eccentric personality, his mental illness, the fact that he cut his own ear off.

“What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion. Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

Vincent Van Gogh

You look at Vincent’s work and you almost wonder why do you need more. Why can’t you be content with a starry night, a humble bedroom, afternoons spent in the countryside, organising your life around the moods of the weather and eating according the seasons. Why must one live such unnatural lives. Why can’t we just let go.

But despite all of this, he was terribly sad. We know this through his many letters to his brother. And we know that he was seeking happiness and beauty through art.

“At present I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day; having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens. If only you pay attention to it you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expatiating on this theme it is obvious that putting little white dots on the blue-black is not enough to paint a starry sky.”

Vincent Van Gogh



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