Vincent’s Starry Nights in Provence & Beyond Part 1
PART 1/2 - Reflection for the Soul.
As I sit here to write my first “Destination Serendipity” travel blog in the middle of the latest lockdown in Sydney, Australia, it feels like life is falling into a jumbled mess! So perhaps it is most appropriate to make this blog from the perspective of being trapped in transit due to a COVID travel delay!
It certainly has impacted all of us, with life coming to an almost grinding halt! Some of us feel like our lives are falling apart with job losses, many businesses on an economic flatline, work & education online from dining room tables all over the country! People look bewildered & frustrated with these restrictions & lockdowns. So, it gives all of us time to rest, reflect, regroup & enjoy the moment staying home!
Normally I’m planning for my next overseas trip or local outing but, like the rest of the country, that's on hold! Art galleries are always a highlight on my travel agenda.
As I think about how to pass time, I remember one of my favourite childhood memories was doing jigsaw puzzles & playing games. In the winter months & school holidays we took over the dining room table much to my father’s dismay! So, it’s with delightful reflection that I see my own lounge room with the dining area converted to a jigsaw table & TV also used to play games online for my daughter to stay connected with her friends.
I still love doing jigsaw puzzles, finding one of the great art masterpieces really allows you a unique look into a painting! You focus on the colour, brush strokes, composition, the characters & characteristics of the image! So now I can imagine in my mind I’m in the Kröller-Müller Museum where “Café Terrace at Night” has its permanent home in the Netherlands.
The photo's are from my own Van Gogh puzzle.
On my dining room table are the pieces of an image of Vincent van Gogh’s famous “Café Terrace at Night”. It’s the first of a series of paintings in which he used his starry background. Vincent’s fascination for stargazing was a result of his found religion. He painted this under an autumn night sky, in situ at Arles, the South of France. Therefore, he was able to capture not only the essence of the scenery, but the ambience & the dynamic moment in time of the "Café Terrace at Night" the year was 1888, in the picturesque city on the Rhône River in Provence, France. Vincent van Gogh was a true traveller & an expatriate of his time. His journeys were from the 1870s to 1888. In his lifetime sadly he did not know his paintings would become so beloved continuing to captivate & intrigue people the world over!
I was first aware of the “Café Terrace at Night” image from the age of about six years old, as our neighbours had the Vincent van Gogh print framed & proudly hung on their dining room wall. Every time I went over to play with my childhood friends, I looked at that print, fascinated with the image, but my immature mind did not understand this painting at all. With a keen eye for colour, I very much liked the vibrant shades of sunflower yellow, citrus lime, burnt orange & those flashes of raspberry red, much like the crazy lollies, cartoons & decor that were around when I was a kid in the 70s!
Photos: Serap Yeni and Unsplash.
Most of all I loved the beautiful dark blue background to Vincent van Gogh’s starry sky. As a child I thought it was like the sky in the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”. I wondered if that was the sky where you would find the diamond high up in the sky! Seemed logical to my six-year-old mind!
Azure blue is said to evoke nature, stability, calmness & richness, among other aspects of blue symbolism. He was so misunderstood in his time. I hope painting those starry skies gave him some calmness & solace, for as Don Mclean’s “Starry Starry Night” song conveys “Vincent” suffered for his sanity, the people of his time did not know how to see his paintings! I wonder if you need to feel & be intrigued to look further to see Vincent’s art to understand Vincent van Gogh’s genius
As for the cafe, who were the characters in those brush strokes? Intriguing to know they all would have a story! Did Vincent van Gogh know them? I’m sure some he did & that fascinates me!
Thankfully the great masterpieces do travel the world at times. In 2010 I was lucky to have seen others of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings, including the iconic “Starry Night Over the Rhône''. This was when an eclectic collection of Post Impressionism art was brought out for "the Masterpieces of Paris" exhibition, loaned from the “The Musée d'Orsay” Paris, by the “National Gallery Australia” (NGA) in Canberra. I organised a bus group tour from Sydney to see this exhibition. Upon entering the room, we were all transfixed & star struck to see the original masterpieces. I arranged tickets that included a cocktail party on the terrace of the gallery, so we could have an after hours access to the gallery. We kept going back into the rooms the paintings were in until the gallery closed, I could not tear myself away from the paintings, the ethereal beauty had me captivated!
Then last year at Fox Studios in Sydney we visited the art experience “Van Gogh Comes Alive” where all the images of Vincent van Gogh masterpieces created his journey through the Netherlands, Belgium & France. It was screened on the walls in a series of halls, it felt like walking into a giant Vincent van Gogh kaleidoscope, so it seemed you were stepping inside the painting to feel their energy & timeless beauty. Poor Vincent with his sensitive, tormented soul, how do you think he would feel to have known the universal delight his paintings still give? He is a perennial favourite artist the world over!
The “Café Terrace at Night” painting has a permanent home in the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo in the Netherlands. One day I would love to see Vincent van Gogh masterpieces again. I hope in the not-so-distant future when the world will be well again & we can all travel with a new respect for the privilege it is to leave our shores.
If, like me, you are holiday planning, you might like to dream of a trip to the places Vincent’s journey took him through the Netherlands, Belgium & France. You can see 14 places Vincent van Gogh visited on my blog “Vincent’s Starry Nights in Provence & beyond. Part 2 of 2 - Follow van Gogh’s journey”. I recommend if you want to do this adventure you travel by train & canal boats. You will really enjoy exploring places linked to Vincent van Gogh & his journey.
Alas for now, I have to be content with my finished “Café Terrace at Night” jigsaw on my dining room table. I very much enjoyed a journey reminiscing & holiday dreaming without leaving home! It gives my mind a sense of gratitude for the past, hope for the future & satisfaction with the present moment in time!
My serendipitous discovery is that life is like a giant jigsaw! Once all the pieces are together you realise that every unique piece of the puzzle is important! Puzzle pieces are like people, some are bold & obvious, some are the corners to give structure, others are edges that keep everyone in line & some are just so damn tricky that you don’t know where they fit in until later!
Moral summary: We are all unique & fit perfectly into this wonderful life we are blessed to live!
Remember to keep your eye out for visiting art collections in your city, as your favourite painting genre & artists may be coming to a gallery near you soon!
Thinking about the beautiful autumn blue night sky in Arles, South of France in 1888 it gives me a sense of calm & richness. Remember you can see Vincent’s starry night skies anytime you like, with those yellow diamond supernovas, you just have to look up at dusk on a clear night, the magical moment before night falls. It always reminds me of something my mother would say.
Destination Serendipity readers stay safe & well. Look after yourself & the ones you love!