Before visiting Amsterdam in the fall of 2013, I read "Lust for Life," a novel about Van Gogh's life by Irving Stone. It's a good book, interesting on many levels, including Van Gogh's life as an artist and how he was influenced as his art developed, and it sparked my interest in his earlier works, such as The Potato Eaters.
The Potato Eaters (you can also see it at Google Art Project) is the culmination of Van Gogh's attempts to capture peasants in their everyday lives without romanticism or mystery, and I think he achieved his goal. The dark colors, heavy faces and meager provisions are sobering, but at the same time, there seems to be something comforting in the companionship and sharing of food.
I couldn't wait to see this painting at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The museum was a great experience and we all enjoyed it. I don't know that I've ever seen more than a handful of Van Gogh's works in one place, but certainly nothing like what we saw there.
One of the things that appeals to me about this painting is the realism - although there are hints of the direction Van Gogh's work would take in the future. I can imagine how it feels to be in that room, and for me, some of Van Gogh's later work, especially the impressionist landscapes, lack that accessibility. In general, though, I am more drawn to his portraits (but not his self-portraits) than to his other works.
Google Art Project has 151 paintings from the Van Gogh Museum. If you click on "Museum View," you can view the different floors of the museum as if you were there.
If you're interested in Van Gogh, I highly recommended reading "Lust for Life" and viewing the paintings in chronological order as you read. It's a great experience!
Week 29: Something Creative - Look at a Painting Every Day