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Video transcript

only here colors to do everything and by its simplification a grander style two things is to be suggestive here first of rest or of sleep in general in a word looking at the picture ought to rest the brain or rather the imagination so the passage that you just read came from a letter van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo and it actually refers to the first version of this painting but the passage that stands out for me in this painting color has to do everything applies equally well to this painting and when I think about that phrase I think about a radical idea that happens in the end of the 19th century with painting the formal elements the color the lines the shapes painters begin to explore the way that these elements can be expressive on their own what you're talking about is the root of abstraction itself so it's not that this is representative it's that the formal qualities of painting itself can have its own experience or a SPECT rather like music which uses pure tone color also form also could have an emotional value that's right that the lines that make up these paintings that the sense of solidity that the colors that the harmonies between the colors the relationship of the shapes that these things could suggest an idea or an emotion regardless of what they represent moving away from the idea of art copying the real world and in this case the idea that van Gogh wanted to represent was one of peacefulness and harmony and repose for so many people they think about Van Gogh's brushwork and they think about his biography but listening to the artists own words you realize that his attention was on the structural qualities and the emotional qualities of color and although we can see his brushwork in the pillows where the paid almost seems to describe the puffiness of the pillows and even though there is a sense of space tilting up when rushing back or too quickly and things seeming slightly askew I do get that sense from the painting of Van Gogh trying to create a world here in this house in Orel where he had moved from Paris a place that could be the basis for a community a place for artists to come and then a place to focus on making art and there's something about the simplicity of the space that feels so different than the materialism and sophistication of Paris so this is a refuge and a deeply personal one but he's created the space with such love and such care he's in a sense inviting us to feel right at home and loving care in a different way than we might normally expect the care that I meant was a care that's based on his observation his experience in this room he is having touched that seat his having slept in that bed his intimate experience that he's been able to convey to us with an extraordinary immediacy think for a second of the sophistication of the Paris art world and the expectation of Parisian audience and look at that wooden nightstand or toilet table as he called it in his letter it looks like it was drawn by a child it has no modulation it has blue outlines and the color is otherwise flat the perspective doesn't make sense I think this painting must have looked like it was made by an artist he wasn't trained properly and yet here's an artist who's really worked through a catalogue of the styles of the 19th century beginning for instance with the art of people like me a moving through the Impressionists and then really paying attention to the neo-impressionist people like Syrah and here finding a kind of very direct location of paint that I think for Van Gogh felt absolutely authentic authenticity is the key word I think for a lot of artists including Gauguin at the end of the 1880s in the beginning of the 1890s this idea of finding authentic experience and that being not the experience of the city this links back to some of the ideas that surround the work of Sitecore Bay where there's this clear contrast between the sophistication of the city and in a sense the truth and directness of the country in Van Gogh's they've been able to convey that beautifully this is a painting that is also meant to be a kind of invitation to his friends in the north he was hoping would come down and join him he has an idea of creating a rather utopian setting for artists to make art away from the city in some sort of communion with nature van Gogh gives us a kind of extraordinarily sophisticated innocence