Friday, September 28, 2007

Van Gogh and colors

The last post reminded me of Vincent van Gogh, the post-impressionist painter the whole world know. I remember several years ago I have read his biography translated in Chinese. Before that, I knew him only about his famous paintings. It was so sad to know that his life was full of poverty and sickness. His paintings were sold at the most expensive prices after his death, while in his life time once around 1881 he had only six hot meals within eight months since he could not afford.

During the time he painted this, he lived in lodgings, supported by his devoted brother Theo, who regularly sent him money from his own small salary. In keeping with his humanitarian outlook he painted peasants and workers. Of this Potato eaters, he wrote to Theo: `I have tried to emphasize that those people, eating their potatoes in the lamp-light have dug the earth with those very hands they put in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor, and how they have honestly earned their food'. Around this time his painting was full of moralistic flavor of social realism, a reproduction of what was seen. It is very different from his later work in Paris where he was obsessed by the symbolic and expressive values of colors. Paintings were dark and heavy around this time, and few people would like to pay for them.

Most memories about van Gogh's painting are about his boldness in using colors. The van Gogh museum in Amsterdam made his name in big size characters in the bright orange color, the color of his country. I somehow always feel the connection between the bright colors and European culture has its root in van Gogh's painting. You might feel a little bit of this in the Swedish furniture store IKEA. When you are in this piece of land, you will be amazed by the color, the most bright yellow, orange, blue or green, can suddenly jump into your eyes. People told me it might be because of the gloomy weather. The bright colors can bring some excitement when they feel depressed because of the weather. Our internet router is in orange color, with a red color cable line. I had a little while to adjust all these color changes in life. Now I am very happy to wear my orange color fleece jacket which we all felt it was too bright when in US.