Vincent Van Gogh has seemingly taken the art world by storm! Recently, in whichever big city I visit, immersive Van Gogh experiences dominate. Numerous independent companies have created productions showcasing the life and works of the famous 19th-century Dutch artist. The structure, style, and approach of the various productions differ. Some offer a more 3-dimensional perspective re-creating Van Gogh's paintings with real props, giving the viewer a sense that "they are IN" the painting. Others offer an audio-visual experience synchronizing his paintings to classical music. Still, others offer magnified projections of his paintings which literally line the floors, walls, and ceilings in expansive surroundings. A FULLY PAINTED movie has even been recently produced, titled 'Loving Vincent', in which the animated characters from his paintings move, talk and explore the final years of Van Gogh's life. In that movie, EVERY ONE of the 65,000 frames of the film is an individual hand-painted oil painting!! Simply amazing!
Without a doubt, the public's fascination with the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh seems insatiable. During the past week, I visited the Newfields Art Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. They recently opened their new exhibition, called LUME, which this year features the digital art of Vincent Van Gogh in 30,000 square feet of immersive galleries. Multiple projectors illuminate numerous self-portraits, the starry night, portraits of acquaintances, sunflower and iris fields, wheat fields, the town and landscape of Arles, the church at Auvers, and much more, throughout the gallery from floor to ceiling. The images are shown on a continuous loop all set to classical music. Through the combined music and visual input, the viewer can sense the mood of Van Gogh's psyche when he painted his various masterpieces.
What I found particularly interesting in this exhibition is an attached room that showed CONCOMITANT projections of the CURRENT real-life locations and natural surroundings that VanGogh featured in his paintings. This was a great way to see actual scenery and attempt to visualize what Van Gogh MAY have SEEN when inspired to paint his paintings.
Another fantastic component of the Indianapolis exhibition was a side-by-side display of paintings of the same region in France by three contemporaries, friends, and competitors, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent Van Gogh, respectively shown below. It was impressive to see the great similarities, yet differences in their styles. The exhibit featured Cezanne's House in Provence, Gauguin's Landscape near Arles, and Van Gogh's Landscape at Saint -Rémy. All three paintings are part of the Newfields' permanent collection.
The THICK layering of paint and broad brushstrokes are defining features of Van Gogh's paintings.
The Newfields' exhibition concluded with a three-dimensional re-creation of Vincent Van Gogh's 'Bedroom in Arles.' This is one of Van Gogh's most well-known paintings. Interestingly in this painting, he depicted his own paintings on the walls of the bedroom.
In one short month, I will be in Chicago and see yet another immersive Van Gogh exhibition premiering in the USA. That blockbuster exhibition was first shown in Paris and subsequently wowed in Toronto. I'm curious to see how it compares to other Van Gogh exhibitions that I have already seen.
While Vincent had a very short career of only ten years, he CERTAINLY left an impression on the world! After all, this Dutch artist created over 1000 drawings, 900 oil paintings, 150 watercolors, as well as some graphic works, lithographs, and even an etching! Sadly, as with many artists, it wasn't until he passed, or in his case killed himself, that the public took note of his genius! The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherland does a FABULOUS job portraying the mental state of this famous artist. There, through the NUMEROUS displayed letters that Vincent wrote to his trusted and much-loved bother, Theo, one can appreciate Vincent's pains and struggles. Van Gogh died at the young age of 37.
After viewing the exhibition at Newfields, we stopped for lunch at Indianapolis' renowned Harry & Izzy's corner restaurant. While that has nothing to do with Van Gogh, it has A LOT to do with Indianapolis. Unless of course, you IMAGINE that you are visiting the Cafe Terrace that Van Gogh regularly frequented at the corner of Place du Forum in Arles, France. We had their Caesar Salad with anchovies and a shrimp cocktail TO DIE FOR ... almost 🥵. The cocktail sauce is not for the weak at heart, as it is VERY spicy!! But as Indiana's-own John Mellencamp would say, 'it hurt SO GOOD!'
I hope you get to Indianapolis, Indiana, or one of the MANY cities offering immersive Van Gogh experiences. Despite them being slightly different depending on the production company, their essences are similar. Van Gogh is certainly an artist whose life and work are worth being familiar with.