An overdue letter.

Dear Vincent,

As we are unacquainted it is somewhat presumptuous of me to write this unsolicited letter. I felt compelled to do so following my visit to the Museé d’Orsay this afternoon, where I had the pleasure of viewing the gallery dedicated to you.

Like many of my generation, you were humanised for me in Don McLean’s 1971 tribute composition ‘Vincent’. The song described you, your tragic life and a number of your works, in particular ‘The Starry Night’ 1889 which has since become the most representational of your works worldwide.

Currently on display at d’Orsay is ‘Starry Night’ 1888, featuring the Rhône at Arles. It is more serene than its better known companion, the stars melding downwards to fuse with the city’s gas lights which submerge their reflections deeply in the river. The overall effect is that of gravitational, matrix-like tendrils of light. The lovers, arm in arm in the corner, are testament to your hunger to be loved. It is admirable that you, a man that love passed by, could yet portray it.

My favorite of your night scenes is ‘Café Terrace at Night’ (I own a print.) I love the gaiety of its colours, the intimacy of the small Arles street contrasting with the vastness of the big sky, and its overall feeling of warmth on a cold night. I read that the Café is still there and trading quite well on the reputation you never knew you had. I bypassed the town once whilst driving down the Autoroute de Sud, in ignorance of your association with it (in youthful haste to the topless beach outside St. Tropez). This can still cause me annoyance – no Vincent, not the beach…

While your entire gallery moved me, I spent the longest amount of time seated before ‘The Siesta’. Perhaps it was on account of my weariness from a full morning trottinement across the city, but your study of the exhausted reapers, prone in the shade of the haystack with their attenuated azure-magenta raiment defining them from a whole canvas of meadow suffused with your signature amber-apricot, was very restful. I now like to think that McLean had ‘Siesta’ in mind as he penned, “colors changing hue/morning field of amber grain”.

A kind attendant took our photograph, your self-portrait and I; me smiling, you recondite. Do please forgive my boldness.

I would like to thank you for the great pleasure you have brought to my life on this and many other occasions.

Yours sincerely,


2 thoughts on “An overdue letter.

  1. Al Kline says:

    Mike, I visited the Kroeller-Mueller museum in Holland a few years ago. This was my first actual ‘look’ at Van Gogh’s work. I was impressed by the way he used such thick oils in his paintings with very little rework. He was undoubtedly a very natural painter. I loved just about everyone of his paintings, rich in color and tone. I was only 13 years old when Don McLean recorded Vincent. I was moved by his words and the way he described the painters life.

Whaddya think?

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