How did Vincent Van Gogh work out his colour schemes?

Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh used balls of wool to work out his colour theory? Or that some of the paint pigments he used have faded?

This 8 minute video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art explains some of Vincent Van Gogh’s approach to colour and illustrates how some of his paintings would have looked like when first created.

Take a coffee break as it is worth watching.

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Canberra sketchers meeting at the NGA

The March meeting of our newly formed Canberra sketchers group was a really pleasant get together and everybody seemed to enjoy the buzz of activity in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Australia. As you can see we all  had a productive time!

Canberra Sketchers March 2015I was a bit of a wimp as it was warm and the air conditioned environment of the gallery beckoned me.

Sandstone Buddha NGAI made myself comfortable, and took time to draw a second century red sandstone Buddha which is about to be returned to India because it was stolen. Of course, when the gallery purchased it they did not know it was stolen and currently all key items in the Indian collection is part of a major provenance investigation.

It is only right that it be returned but before it left public display here, I decided to take time to really look at it and draw it. There is nothing like drawing to make you really look at something. It was quiet and peaceful in the gallery and I was really pleased I took time to do this as I probably would not have the opportunity to see this again let alone draw it. The red sandstone Buddha, originally cam from the Uttar Pradesh region of India.

Links to news reports relevant to the provenance investigation of the NGA Asia collection.

National Gallery of Australia to return stolen Buddha statue to India

Buddha statue found to have been stolen will be returned to India

If you are local or visiting and interested in Canberra Sketchers don’t hesitate to contact me for details about our meetings.

Added Later see how Leonie Andrews saw the Canberra Sketchers event 

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Van Gogh’s bridges – then and now

Vincent van Gogh went to Arles in search of Japan – according to David Dale, author of A traveller’s alphabet of essential places. In reality he was looking for the light and colours that he saw in Japanese prints, and he found them in Arles. This post is about how we bridged the distance between France and Japan through Van Gogh’s paintings.

He did several versions of the Pont Langlois bridge at Arles in southern France. The original bridge traversed the Arles-to-Bouc canal and was a simple but functional drawbridge enabling canal boats to pass underneath when raised. A series of these bridges were built along the canal in the first half of the 19th century. The one nearest Arles was called Pont de Réginel but was more popularly known for its keeper, Monsieur Langlois – hence it was known as Langlois’ bridge.

Pont Langlois

Pont Langlois [source: Wikipedia]

I had heard that the bridge was still around and could be seen today. Actually, that’s not quite true, as we found. The original bridge became structurally unsound and was replaced in the 1930s by a concrete bridge – and that in turn was destroyed by retreating Germans in 1944 – they destroyed all but one of the bridges along the canal, leaving only the one at Fos sur Mer. This was of the original bridges on the canal and was the same design as the one Van Gogh painted in 1888. In 1959 the Fos bridge was dismantled with a view to relocating it at the site of the Langlois bridge, but the canal had since been widened and it was decided to move it to its current location near the Montcalde Lock. It is not easy to find.

Pont van Gogh, Arles

Pont van Gogh, Arles

It took a few goes and finally, we turned down a little side street on the outskirts of the town and there was Pont Van-Gogh – its new name – restored to working order. Some might consider it a reproduction or a fake, but since it is from the original series and contemporary with the Langlois bridge, by the same builder, I think it is close enough to original. Again I was struck by how accurately Van Gogh represented the structure and how faithfully he painted the chains and support beams and pulleys for raising the bridge.

He painted four oil paintings and one watercolour of the bridge and completed a number of drawings.

Little did I realise that this bridge was a key to his link with Japan. In the late nineteenth century, Europe was Japan crazy – high quality lacquer furniture, boxes, ceramics and pottery were being exported to Europe by the shipload. As it turns out, many of these were wrapped in fine paper prints, some by famous Japanese artists, others, like the prints of Japanese women were adverts for Geishas.

The different perspective and flat use of colour in these images inspired the post-impressionists to look differently at the world. One print that came to Van Gogh was of a famous painting by Hiroshige of the Edo period bridge that led into the Emperor’s palace in the centre of Tokyo. The bridge is depicted in rain and elegant lines and unusual foreshortening inspired Van Gogh to paint a copy.

Hiroshige bridge

Hiroshige bridge [source: Wikipedia]

 And this is Van Gogh’s version:

Van Gogh-Hiroshige bridge

Van Gogh-Hiroshige bridge [source: Wikipedia]

And we found this connection in Tokyo, at the Edo-Tokyo Museum – which has a full-size replica of the Edo bridge within the museum. It is extraordinary and surprising how connections turn up in the places you least expect. So here is my photo of the replica bridge in Tokyo

Edo-Tokyo bridge

Edo-Tokyo bridge

So from a painting in the Musee d’Orsay, to a bridge in the South of France where Van Gogh sought to connect with his vision of Japan seen through a print of a bridge, we found an extraordinary connection with a reproduction bridge in a museum in Tokyo. This is what makes travel so worthwhile!

What connections have you made across the world in unexpected places? Let us know in the comments below 🙂

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