Try Van Gogh the Suburban Professional 梵谷狂野？ 試想他是住郊區的上班族
We like to think of Vincent van Gogh as a creature of the elements: buffeted by the wind and rain, or going mad in the sunflower fields under the wilting Provençal sun.
But here’s another, just as valid, idea of van Gogh: comfortable, middle-class Vincent in a top hat and coat, commuting to work in Victorian London and spending his weekends rowing on the Thames or strolling in Kensington Gardens.
That was, indeed, van Gogh in his early 20s, when he moved to London from his native Netherlands to work for international art dealing firm Goupil & Cie as an assistant in its branch in the Covent Garden district.
Van Gogh didn’t make a single painting in London, but as “Van Gogh and Britain,” a new exhibition at Tate Britain makes clear, his time in the British capital had an enduring effect on his work.
The exhibition, which runs through Aug. 11, offers us a vision of van Gogh as a thinker who absorbed the cultural influences around him, especially 19th-century English literature, and often used references from British illustrations, prints and paintings in his work.
“Looking at his work through his relationship with Britain brings into the foreground his amazing intellectual curiosity,” said Carol Jacobi, lead curator of the show.
Recent research into lesser-known chapters of van Gogh’s life, such as his time in Britain, have provided us with a more well-rounded image of the artist, slowly replacing the old vision of a wild man whose art came directly from the soul — though it will take a long time to shift that idea, said Sjraar van Heugten, an independent van Gogh art historian and curator based in Belgium.
“It’s entirely clear that van Gogh was not the completely spontaneous painter who worked very fast, almost without thinking,” said van Heugten in an interview. “He read very widely: literature as well as popular science. If you carefully study his work, the image arises of a man who carefully thinks about his works and prepares.”
Van Gogh got his job in London at the Goupil gallery through family connections in the Netherlands. Both Vincent and his brother Theo worked first in the firm’s branch in The Hague, and about the same time that Theo moved to the Brussels branch, Vincent was sent to London. They both ended up working in the Paris headquarters, but although Theo rose through the gallery’s ranks, Vincent was fired a couple of years later.
“It’s really interesting to think of van Gogh as having this commercial chapter to his life,” Jacobi said.