Take Back the Night

MoMA’s current exhibit — Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night, inspired by Van Gogh’s observation, “It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day” is a do not miss. I know there are purists who sniff at the work of those whose masterpieces are reproduced on coffee mugs, mouse pads and umbrellas. I say let them sniff away. More room for the rest of us to sigh in wonder as we make our way through the exhibit space, taking in Van Gogh’s spin of stars, the towers of threshed wheat glowing in the setting sun.

Think “daylight” and the sun and the splendor of a ray-drenched morning comes to mind. Think “nightlight” and what usually pops up is a little beige gizmo plugged into a bathroom outlet. And that’s why Van Gogh was the artist and we aren’t.

Van Gogh was mesmerized by the play of light and shadow brought on by the setting sun. The coming of evening was a time for spritual reflection, for reviewing the day’s events. It was the time that the images and sensations stored up during his day began flowing out in studies, sketches,and paintings each one building upon the last. I love exhibits that put an artist’s paintings into a context of artistic development enabling viewers a window into the creative process, urging onlookers to reexamine their world. The show’s curators deserve an entire set of mugs, mouse pads and umbrellas for putting together this exhibit.

Now that time has fallen back once again, sending nightfall upon us with unsettling suddeness, we might borrow a page from Van Gogh’s sketchbook. Instead of being jarred by the swiftness of the dark falling, we might take a few moments to reflect, to consider what transpired during our day. Pulling into the driveway this evening just as the sun was setting I tried to see the world in a new light, a night light. The leaves still remaining on the oak were resplendent in the fading sun, shadows deep purple across the lawn. How tragic that Van Gogh’s brilliance shown brightest at the setting of his own life.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 thoughts on “Take Back the Night

  1. Emma

    It’s not Van Gogh’s fault that his masterpieces are on coffee mugs- and what artist wouldn’t want that much admiration that people want to see the artist’s work when drinking their morning coffees.
    I love people to gain inspiration AND energy thanks to me (and Maxwells) every morning.

    Thank you to Van Gogh and to you for reminding me to see the light when the sun sets at 5 pm.


    (but if anyone ever paint by numbers my work I will not be as pleased.)

  2. Debra

    Dearest EMstop,

    I would LOVE to see some of your artwork — photos, drawings, painting — on my morning coffee cup! You already inspire and energize me!

  3. Jean Alicia Elster

    Hi Debra–

    If I had not tossed/misplaced/who knows my travel journal from my post-law school tour of Europe I could be more specific–but I do remember seeing an exhibition of select Van Gogh paintings as well his journals either in Paris or Amsterdam. What stays w/ me to this day from his journals is the way he wrote in both English and French. Beginning a sentence in English then interjecting a few French words… The next sentence reversing the sequence. What a mind!

  4. Cindy L

    What a lovely post. I’ve admired Van Gogh’s rich and juicy colors ever since my internship at the DIA after college. We visited his haunts in provincial France three years ago — what a gift to see.

  5. Only the Half of It

    I was just in NY too… when exactly were you there? I stopped by the MoMA but the exhibit was sold out that day. I’ve seen so much Van Gogh I did not feel I HAD to get back with other things on the docket.
    I did see a cool show at the Met by a very subdued Italian artist who did gentle, even repetitive and somewhat monochromatic still lifes: George Morandi. Often, more interesting than the art work is the story behind it.
    I had glorious weather. I love NYC too as I went to school there and get back often.
    Thanks for the post. I do wish I had seen the show.

Comments are closed.