As many of you are probably aware, today is Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday! I’ve loved Van Gogh’s artwork since I was a little kid. My dad had this board game we would play all the time called Masterpiece that centered around bidding for famous paintings. After we knew how to play the game, my dad made my siblings and me recite the name of the painting and the painter when we bought it from the game’s auction! I loved challenges like that so I always thought it was fun. Man, I miss that game!
Anyway, my first memory of Van Gogh is seeing Starry Night from Masterpiece. A Van Gogh self portrait is another one of the paintings I remember from the game, and of course my dad told us about the artist cutting off part of his ear. That’s something that sticks with you as a kid.
But despite that, there was always something that caught my attention about Van Gogh’s artwork. Most people would probably agree with me when I say that it stands out not only among other Impressionist paintings, but among all paintings throughout history. There’s something about Van Gogh’s beautiful depictions that goes way beyond colour and brushstrokes. Van Gogh’s paintings have always touched my heart in a very singular way.
That’s why, when I found out that the Tate Britain museum was having a Van Gogh exhibition during the time my best friend Hannah and I would be in England, I was over the moon! (You thought I was done talking about England, didn’t you? Ha! Think again!) And the best part was that the featured piece was none other than one of the Sunflowers paintings; the same one featured in the Doctor Who episode Vincent and the Doctor! (And you thought I was done talking about Doctor Who, right?)
Luckily Hannah was just excited as I was about the Van Gogh exhibition, so we had no trouble making time for it and saving money for the fee to get in. As we were waiting for our turn to enter the exhibition, it struck me that I was about to actually see tons of real artwork from one of my favourite painters. Not reproductions. Not in pictures. Right there, close enough to touch. Before I went to the National Gallery a few days prior, I had never even seen a famous painting in person!
The exhibition at the Tate Britain was entitled “Van Gogh and Britain,” and while I did read the history splayed all over the walls, I was mostly just entirely captivated by the beauty surrounding me. Everywhere I looked: Van Gogh. It absolutely took my breath away.
The really cool thing about it was that I discovered so much Van Gogh artwork that I didn’t even know about! At the exhibition, I found his drawings and sketches really captivating.
I stared for a long while at this tiny little painting the size of my hand. It really reminded me of home in Florida.
There was one that made me think of Jane Austen:
And then of course, there was the moment that I turned and saw it in the distance. The epic, emotional, building music from Vincent and the Doctor started playing. I walked forward, as if in a trance, just like Amy Pond did, the crowd before me clearing like magic. Anticipation bunched in the pit of my stomach. There it was. Sunflowers.
It was amazing beyond words to be there, right in front of it, close enough to see the brushstrokes. Van Gogh painted this.
Needless to say, I came out of that exhibition elated. As someone who admired Van Gogh’s paintings as a little girl, it was a dream come true and it certainly solidified my belief that Van Gogh really was “the finest painter of them all.”