Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890: A Study of the Artist and His Work in Relation to His Times

Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890: A Study of the Artist and His Work in Relation to His Times

Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890: A Study of the Artist and His Work in Relation to His Times

Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890: A Study of the Artist and His Work in Relation to His Times

Excerpt

As I WRITE these lines, a great exhibition of the works of van Gogh is attracting tens of thousands of people to the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. The question is no longer whether to go and see the paintings of the "wild man," but when to go: at what hour one can escape the crowds which, even in those big galleries, prevent one from seeing the pictures.

When the exhibition was first proposed to the committee in charge at the museum, a number of persons objected to it as not sufficiently modern. And there was much reason on their side. The painter had been dead for forty-five years, his work had influenced at least two generations of later artists: surely such a man came more within the province of the museums that occupy themselves with the older arts,--the modern museum exists to deal with matters of our own day. The question is really one of our bad logic in separating art into old and new. The only genuine separation is between the true and the false.

But since we seem to be a long way yet from the courage or the understanding necessary to decide on things as good or bad, and since the confusing word modern still maintains its interest for so many people, we may take sides in the discussion that was presented to the Modern Museum, and I, for one, insist that van Gogh is quite in place there. I do not say so because of his importance as an influence on the art since his day, but because his work has that peculiarly living quality which makes it inexhaustibly modern. As regards various great arts of earlier centuries, it is of the most common occurrence to hear people exclaim--"You'd think that it was done just today!" And van Gogh has already proved himself to belong in this category. Despite a pronounced manner, which is easily recognized as belonging to the latter nineteenth century . . .

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