Georges Braque, who Picasso once called ‘ The father of us all’ in referring to Impressionism and beyond said,
painting is not depicting.
I would say Art is not depicting and certainly not necessarily verisimilitude. What matters is what moves us, what we find inspiring and beautiful, like Vincent’s lemon and lime green skies. Bad art, on the other hand is trying to depict real life and miserably failing due to lack of technique, personal vision or, more often, both.
Delving into a delightful book, Les Jardins De Van Gogh by Ralph Skea, (editions-hazen.com) takes me far beyond the mythic sunflowers and tormented fields overshadowed by the uncanny threat of doom depicted by the black crows. Here I discover the sheer poetry of his work, to plunge into a cool wood in springtime, dandelions mass in the undergrowth beneath the tree trunks, or, the public gardens,’ Le jardin du poet’, transforms into just that; the romantic rendezvous of lovers, the lush almost sensuous grasses, make one long to lie down under the shade of the willow beneath those lemon skies. This is all suggested in his seemingly rough strokes his layers of paint, it has nothing to do with realism and yet is so vibrant with real life.
Even when figures enter the scene, ‘Marguerite Gachet dans son Jardin’ for example, nothing is clearly defined, much less the lone girls features, yet a feeling is evoked, we share her quiet pleasure and the pastoral security of a young girl in the garden of her provincial family home.
So maybe this is inspiring me to pick up my brushes again because I am reassured once more about what matters in painting. He was so unaware of the extent of his talent, of his ability to make others feel emotions, to evoke them. Vincent himself found solace from his torments in gardens wherever he found them. He rendered them all with intense beauty and passion, with the feelings the scene evoked in him. What matters is what we find beautiful, what matters is the end result.