Dread of West, Love of East

“Sudden Evening Shower at Ohashi Bridge” by Ando Hiroshige (1857) @ Through Vincent’s Eyes exhibit

Among the many, many, many things to love about the Through Vincent’s Eyes exhibit in Columbus, arguably nothing was as striking as how the galleries were organized.

Cue groans and rolling eyes from the oft overlooked curators out there.

To which I say, touché.

All due wrist slapping is welcome, and deserved. This experience opened my eyes to just how important organization and presentation is to a quality afternoon of art worship.

Just as the 2000 film Memento told a story of short term memory loss in the only way it could effectively be told (backwards), this exhibit told the story of Van Gogh’s sources in the only way that makes sense.

Forget ye linear ways, museum goers. We don’t need no stinking timelines. What we need is a good old factorial analysis.

Indeed, what made this exhibit so spectacular was that instead of taking us on a chronological trip through his life (which is what I assumed when we first entered), each room represented themes.

And because it was about themes rather than his life story, the framework was perfect for displaying other artists’ artwork in each respective room, supporting said theme. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I don’t want to spoil the experience too much for those planning to go. I’ll avoid revealing all the categories they explored. I will point out, however, that there was one theme that stood out as ruling them all: his disdain for his Parisian peers and unbridled affection for the greats that came before.

They didn’t dedicate a single room to this phenomenon, like they did to things like his spirituality, landscapes, and still life. But it was absolutely a theme, like the rest, and it appeared with a humorous regularity in the supplemental information posted in each gallery.

In particular, I was excited to see that he was deeply inspired by Japanese woodblock art, which became a sensation in the Far East maybe fifty years before he started his own artistic journey. I have several (not original) prints of my own, inherited from my grandmother. Learning that he dedicated an entire wall of his home to this style of art triggered an absolute giddiness in my heart of hearts

Meanwhile, he was apparently rather bored, even disillusioned, by the work being done by the artists of his generation: the Impressionists. On the one hand, I felt disappointed that he didn’t see the brilliance of their work — Impressionism being the first section I seek in a museum when I’m looking for inspiration — and on the other, the snarky way he wrote about them in his letters to his brother is pure comedy gold.

But I’ll save that topic for another day.

As my traveling companion articulated in his own musings on the experience, I’ve never learned more about any single artist from any single exhibit as I did at this one.

Shot on Pixel 6 Pro.

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