In the exhibition book, it serves to illustrate van Goghs early attraction to evening scenery and rural life, which is hardly an earthshaking revelation. For those who love art, the undistinguished landscape helps to measure how fast van Gogh, who decided to become an artist in 1880, moved from the level of an indifferent amateur to that of a major master.
Van Gogh did the improbable, winning by trying too hard banging into limits that disintegrated, as profound inventions of linear rhythm and color harmony transfigured dicey motifs. The delirious Starry Night and the hellish Night Café attain serenity at an altitude of talent beyond imaging.
Throughout his life, Vincent van Gogh, painter of color and light, was fascinated by evening and night scenes. His oeuvre is full of great works celebrating these atmospheric hours. In the most famous of them, the peerless Starry Night painted in Saint-Rémy in June 1889, he evokedas no
one has done before or sincethe sense of a glittering, star-filled night sky.
Above all, Van Gogh associated the quiet hours after sunset with a feeling of security, with solace, and with poetry. In his work he tried to link this idea to the questions of life and death that preoccupied him: the bitterly hard struggle for existence in a changing age, the eternal cycle of nature in all its grandeur with its progression of seasons, seen against the triviality of transient life. These thoughts are expressed in many of his works, among them The Potato Eaters and the series of sowers at dusk.
Van Gogh greatly admired the artistic tradition of evening and night works and was, at first, a follower of the Barbizon School. In time, however, he developed a wholly individual style of painting light in darkness, with his striking use of colour and rhythmic handling of the paint.
This book presents a unique, wide-ranging examination of Van Goghs influential nocturnes, the works that reveal him to be an independent-minded pioneer of modern art.
This publication accompanies the exhibition of the same name at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from the 13rd February until the 7th of June 2009. The exhibition was previously presented at de MOMA in New York.