The Madness of Painters

Vincent van Gogh will be getting the Book of the Week treatment next week on Radio 4. The book is unimaginatively called Van Gogh’s Ear. Poor Vincent, all those sunflowers and wheat fields stem into insignificance next to his self-mutilation that fascinates us to this day. Not even the subsequent self-portrait with bandaged ear could get him noticed in the art world. Only in death would VVG  become famous.

My first impression of this painter was in a negative light and my post-impressions haven’t changed. Canvases smudged with more paint than a courtesan’s make-up. Unrealistic facial portraits and inaccuracies in anatomy. Then there’s all those flowers. He should have cut them up.

I’ve avoided the temptation to put this painter in the Overrated series because all painters are off their head. Hours puzzling over light and shade. Mixing oils and cleaning brushes. All this painstaking preparation when the landscape or sitter could be captured with the click of a camera.

My ears have heard many pronunciations of the painter’s last name. Obviously, I use the popular Goff but other versions include Go and the guttural Hock. Maybe, it’s Hoff or Ho, who knows?

Lastly, it was in 1888 that Vincent took the razor to his ear. What a terrible year was MDCCCLXXXVIII. Jack the Ripper was serial killing in Whitechapel and the seed was planted that birthed an Austrian monster.

12 thoughts on “The Madness of Painters”

  1. Van Gogh is one of the more over-rated painters. Well, he is at least in my not-so-humble opinion. His paintings look like a deranged art school failure slopped pounds of pain on a canvas in a moment of semi-lucidity. (Failed art school student, deranged… Now this merely needs “Austrian” for the full, hellish effect) In Dutch is name is pronounced phlegm-aw-phlegm. In Hunnish, gaw-phlegm. The correct English pronunciation is “Goff”. How do I know? Americans say “Go” and everyone else says “Goff”, so assume that Americans are wrong. That’s usually a good idea.

  2. Jazz, agreed. If you’ve ever seen Vincent’s work in the flesh you can’t avoid appreciating the translucence of their colours. Just pop over to Amsterdam or Arles and have an honest look. Photos don’t hack it. Dislike of gardens and flowers doesn’t help. Inability to pronounce names ditto. JW, you’re in serious need of a culture transplant – but North Britain ain’t the place to go – or Bolton. 😷

  3. Some years ago we did go to Amsterdam and visit among other places the Van Gogh museum.

    North Britain, or Scotland as it is sometimes known had some great painters and designers ( the Glasgow Boys the colourists and James Rennie MacIntosh). If you find yourself in Glasgow a visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is well worthwhile.

  4. Christopher, heard it pronounced van Go on a US TV show. Agree that this Yankee googly is a wrong ‘un.

    Culture Vultures: Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

    Time for church.

  5. Can’t say I like his art very much but I believe his name should be pronounced “van choch” where the ch is the same as in a Scottish loch.

  6. I like the landscapes and botanicals, there is a vibrancy about them.
    As to how his name is pronounced, differs in differing languages I would have thought?
    As to his troubled life, sad really that people are still talking about his bloody ear. Surely the only thing of importance is his legacy of pictures?
    Falls into the ‘get a life category!’

  7. …yes and my own favourite David Hockney is feted for his gender preference. Philistines will always find a fault!

  8. Well I had better practice what I preach! About 10lbs of plums made there way here yesterday along with a basket of figs. My Welsh trading account is getting ridiculous. Three freezers and all totally full, so back to the Kilner jar routine, aargh! I have dished out at least 20 cucumbers to all and sundry in the last three days alone, plus aubergines, courgettes, basil. This is seriously God’s little acre for fruit and veg production. The only thing I have bought in months are lemons and limes.
    I’ve taken to leaving largesse on neighbour’s doorsteps and running like hell!

    Magnificent wild sockeye salmon, fresh, under 4.00 sterling per pound, (eat your hearts out), 3 straight in the freezer took all the room available. Dare I ask for a fourth freezer I wonder?

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