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The Landscapes of Vincent van Gogh

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“[b]In response to the question ‘what is landscape?’ we could say that it is what we remember after we have stopped looking (…). There is no scale in landscape; it can be presented as immense or minuscule; it lends itself to all materials – living or inert -, to all places, infinite or without horizon. (…) the landscape appears to be essentially subjective. It is interpreted through a powerful filter made up of personal experience and cultural armour. (…) In theory, there are thus as many landscapes, of one site, as there are individuals to interpret it. (…) But nobody knows what private emotions stir in each individual (…). Such is the irremediably hidden face of landscape.[/b]” Inaugural lecture given on 1 December 2011 at the Collège de France by landscapist Gilles Clément. “[b]When we study Japanese art, we see a man who is indisputably wise and philosophical and intelligent, who spends his time doing what? (…) he studies a single blade of grass. But this blade of grass leads him to draw all the plants, then the seasons, the major elements of landscapes, and finally the animals, then the human figure.[/b]” Letter to Theo van Gogh, Arles 17 September 1888. “[b]But you see, there are people who love nature and are mad or ill, these are the painters, then there are those who love what man makes and these even go as far as to love paintings.[/b]” Letter to Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, 9 May 1889. “[b]Now that most of the leaves have fallen the landscape is more akin to the north and so I feel that if I return to the North I would see more clearly than before.[/b]” Letter to Theo van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, 3 November 1889. “[b](…) I got up at night to look at the landscape – never has nature seemed so touching and so sensitive.[/b]” Letter to Theo van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, 31 December 1889 “[b](…) indeed it is solemnly beautiful; it is that characteristic and picturesque open countryside.[/b]” Letter to Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger, Auvers-sur-Oise, 20 May 1890. "[b]( ... ) “True to his sentiment and his religious education, Van Gogh remained faithful to the romantic vision of nature as a whole. In a painting of a woodland scene, he would explore its internal secrets, not to dissect the natural laws, but to reveal a creative concept, if not a creator.[/b]” Jenny Reynaerts, curator in the department of 18th and 19th-century paintings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (in the exhibition catalogue for “Van Gogh – l’Uomo e la Terra” at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, October 2014-March 2015). Image: Trees and Undergrowth, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, July 1889 – Van Gogh Museum.
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