30 January 2013

Portrait of a Peasant

"Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier)" Vincent van Gogh (1888)

Sunday before last I stopped by the Frick Collection to check out Vincent van Gogh’s “Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier)” before it returned home to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. The portrait of Patience Escalier, a gardener from Camargue, is one of a series of portraits of local characters that Van Gogh made in Arles during a 15-month stay. He was enchanted by the region’s colours and light, which inspired some of his most famous works.

While this painting is neither my favourite Van Gogh nor his best, it’s a great example of what sets him apart from other painters. Van Gogh's noticeable brush strokes and vibrant colours bring to mind the textures and colours found in nature. Doesn’t his skin resemble the polished wood of a tree? And isn't the yellow of his hat the same as that of a sunflower? Displayed in the middle of one of the Frick galleries, the portrait appeared to almost glow in comparison to the more muted colours of the paintings on the surrounding walls.

Outside, I walked by the garden and saw some blue violets popping up. Looking closer, I realized that some of them were the same shade of blue as the background in the Van Gogh painting. What a genius. (And kudos to the gardeners at the Frick for the choice.)

If you're in the Los Angeles area, you can see the painting at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena where they currently have on loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Van Gogh's "Self-Portrait" (1889) through March 4, 2013. For more information, visit here.

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