Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Why is Vincent van Gogh‘s painting of a vase of sunflowers always being sold at auction for mind-boggling sums? One reason is that it seems to have captured the imagination, that intangible quality often referred to as the X-factor.

Another reason is that there are lots of versions. Here are three.

SunflowersI guess van Gogh liked painting sunflowers, or perhaps he wasn’t satisfied and just kept on trying till he got something he liked.

Winter Landscape

Winter Landscape, Munch, 1915Edward Munch did not only paint the masterpiece ‘The Scream’. Winter Landscape was another of his compositions. It looks like he only used a few hues from his palette, but the rocky crags, the icy snow, the distant clouds, the setting sun on the cold, placid lake, all blend together. And what about the balance he finds between land, water and sky, another masterpiece?

Magpie, Art

Claude Monet is my favourite artist. By a distance.

In my eyes a real artist is someone who can paint or draw very well, and then can add something of their own in order to make a unique piece of art. This is why I have no time for so-called artists who can only splatter-paint, and then call it art. The results may occasionally be pleasing, but it is through luck rather than skill. If Monet were to splatter-paint then I would take more notice. He has earned a legitimacy through real art.

The Magpie, an 1869 winter scene, may not be one of his most famous nor familiar works but it is one which displays all his skill. The house looks like his house in Giverney. I visited it a few years ago and I reckon it is the back view, a little up the hill behind the house. From the shadows we see the low-angled winter sun was in front of him when he painted this scene, and the traces of pink tints in the snow suggest the sun is about to set. But most of all I like the subject of the painting, the magpie, small and off-centre.

Magpie, Monet 1869
Magpie, by Claude Monet, 1869

Did Monet simply paint the scene and a magpie happened to be there, or did he deliberately build the piece around the magpie? Whatever way magpies don’t stay in the same place for long, so Monet must have made quite a quick sketch (or sketches) of the magpie.

Maybe the magpie wasn’t there at all and Monet just painted it in. There is no way of telling, but the result is sublime.

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The Hunters in the Snow, Art

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like art.

But I must confess I shudder at the huge sums that art can be sold for. However I suppose I should respect the law of supply and demand (after all an original painting is by definition unique), and I should also respect an individual’s right to spend their money as they wish.

I appreciate art comes in many forms, though still I’m bewildered how someone applying paint to a canvas by means of splattered bicycle tracks can be considered art. But that’s another story, much better to focus on what I like.

I like this.

Hunters in the Snow, Breugel
The Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Breugel

Another confession, I am no art connoisseur, though I like art to tell me something, to inform me, to transmit, to grip me more deeply than the “Oh, that’s nice,” reaction. I’m looking for Oh that’s nice plus alpha.

This painting does that. It certainly tingles me at first sight, and there’s more. It has a foreground and a background; it tells me of the times (circa 1565). I like the hues too. Has the paint faded over the centuries? I don’t know, but the dark pastel shades of the 16th century are in sharp contrast with the in-your-face poster colors of today.

Pieter Breugel was a Flemish peasant; if he were alive today he would be a Belgian millionaire.

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Monet’s Giverny 4

And here is that famous Japanese bridge in Monet‘s garden in Giverny, just outside Paris.

Unfortunately there are a few people standing on the bridge which spoils it somewhat, but it is virtually impossible to get a snap without any imposters, as there is a steady stream of visitors filing over the bridge. Personally I think they should block off the bridge for ten minutes every hour to allow unadulterated photos of this magic scene.

Nympheas by Claude Monet

There is no doubting the beauty of this painting from 1905, the Nympheas, or waterlilies, by Claude Monet, but is it really worth 43 million US dollars, which it was sold for yesterday.

Here is a photo I took in the very same pond in Monet’s garden in Giverny earlier this year.

It cost the entrance fee of about 10 euros.