I was in NYC this last weekend and while there visited the Museum of Modern Art. And guess what? It has Starry Night. So I spent a considerable amount of time looking at it just to see what makes it so much better than the Dominic original.
I thought that I was close to seeing what it was; but then I happened to wander over to a collection of paintings by Picasso. And when I did, I couldn’t help but think that Dominic’s drawing really might belong in the collection of great artworks.
One thing, however, is certain: Van Gogh’s Starry Night is worth a whole lot more than Dominic’s drawing.
And that got me to thinking about what Van Gogh’s finances were like just after he painted it. And that led me to the following sentences from two of his letters to Theo just after he painted Starry Night. The sentences paint an interesting picture. I shall call it:
These four days I have lived mainly on 23 cups of coffee, with bread which I still have to pay for.
I am almost sure that Bague will like my big studies, the “Starry Sky,” “Furrows,” etc., he will like some in the last batch much less.
I have a lot of expenses, and it worries me a good deal sometimes when I realize more and more that painting is a profession carried on most likely by exceedingly poor men, and it costs so much money.
So Van Gogh, having painted what would become considered one of the greatest paintings of all time, was forced to live on coffee and bread, was worried whether some collector would like his paintings, and was dismayed by the fact that painting cost so much. And what did he have in his possession at that time? A future treasure, as is shown by another sentence from the same letters.
That's 5 canvases I have in progress this week, that brings the number of these size 30 canvases for the decoration to 15, I think.
2 canvases of sunflowers
3 “ the poet's garden
2 “ the other garden
1 “ the night café
1 “ the Trinquetaille bridge
1 “ the railway bridge
1 “ the house
1 “ Tarascon diligence
1 “ the starry night
1 “ the furrows
1 “ the vineyard
Van Gogh was 35 when he wrote these letters and hence had less than two years to live.
The universe is a funny thing. Perhaps Van Gogh didn’t ask enough of it. Or perhaps he asked too much.
AMANDA C. MATHIS
5 weeks ago