Oranges painted by van Gogh from Becoming van Gogh exhibit book
In 1885 Vincent van Gogh visited the Rijskmuseum in Amsterdam (this I learned from visiting the Becoming van Gogh exhibit at the Denver Art Museum). There he saw the artworks of many masters, and after this visit, van Gogh turned toward more color and to more painting with color through the inspiration he took away from the works he saw.
Before his museum visit in 1885 he drew black, heavy drawings. He stroked his earlier paintings with deep, dark hues carrying the weight of his subjects: the poor, the field workers, the reapers, the heavily burdened. His drawings were full of pale faces, worn shoes, and people carrying out difficult labor. He tended toward the pale and the stark. In 1885, for example, he sketched, drew, and then painted The Potato Eaters, a depiction of the harsh reality of famine and the difficulties of life.
Van Gogh had many turning points which led him toward becoming a master of modern art in just ten years time—the artist we know as creating vibrant works like Starry Night and Field of Sunflowers. It is significant to me, though, that a simple visit to a museum, something each of us can do, gave him inspiration and was a jumping off point for him.
At that museum visit he saw and experienced inspired works of art full of vibrancy, flowers, colors, and other painted beauty. Van Gogh himself, in this museum, the art master of the modern age, was merely a student himself; merely a citizen, an art lover, a museum-goer who walked through a museum in a city not too far from where he grew up. Here he was so inspired it spurred him on to new life in his work.
But this not truly “mere.” This is a miracle.
We all can experience this type of miracle—if we are open to it, if we look for it, if we use our experiences and believe in ourselves. If we believe in others as they show off the beauty of life and of their souls. If we take it to heart, draw it in. If we use the amazing gifts of others as a jumping off point for our work. If we say “How beautiful” and then decide we must add to the beauty in our own way. If we say we’ll keep moving forward and master our own gifts for all they are worth.
A simple visit to a museum—or a poetry reading, or a dance performance, or a nature preserve, or a speaking engagement, anything—that could be your inspiration point too. Go and look for it, be open to it, and be inspired.
What simple act or activity have you done that has had an inspirational effect on you?