>New Year’s Eve is a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s about people, it’s about food, it’s about getting really drunk and doing something so stupid that you have to make a list of resolutions long as your arm to compensate.

For me it was also about doing something spectacular- almost the last chance for the passing year to redeem itself in a blaze of culture-laden glory. To broaden the mind before killing half of the brain cells off with the alcohol fest that is New Year’s Eve. And so, with the noble thought of bettering myself in mind, I trotted myself across the Park and over to the Metropolitan Museum to brave the crowds for the final day of the Van Gogh drawings.

Van Gogh is, in my view, largely misunderstood. The man went nutty bonkers, but his 10 year career was spectacular and it is not worth it to focus on his ear mutilation and miss the real gems.

Van Gogh not only corresponded with his brother Theo but several artists of reknown in that time- John Russell of Australia and the Frenchman Emile Bernard. And dear Vincent craved the opportunity to study with his contemporaries- his stay in hospital ruined his chances to hang with Gauguin, who was actually a fan of his.

His letters contained sketches and models of paintings- each one he tailored to fit the style of the man he was writing to. It’s great stuff and if you can catch it, do.

Under the continued heading of “shots I probably shouldn’t have taken but I was told it was okay and someone else did and I didn’t use a flash and nobody barked at me” I offer “Still Life with Coffee Pot”, one of several sketches he included in a letter to Bernard ca. June 7, 1888. You can see, besides my reflection, several descriptions of the food in the sketch as if he is trying to help Bernard taste what he is enjoying.

Random aside- Van Gogh was a talented draughtsman and excelled at landscape but his goal was to ignore what he knew to be true about art and abandon himself to the machinations of his talent. To draw and paint without overthinking. And to get better at portraying the human form. And he did. It took him 10 years, and likely cost him his sanity, but in his letters to Theo he is clearly satisfied that has accomplished his goal.

I also had to take a shot of this cat. It seemed like his mark- like a simple doodle that you’d put in the corner of any painting- and is actually a simple and somewhat joyful sketch. It seems to be almost lighthearted in a way.

It was drawn with a reed pen, I think, which is something Van Gogh developed to achieve an almost Japanese effect- something many artists at the time were entranced by.

You can see the strokes were few and used for maximum effect. There’s less a face, than a suggestion of one, but it works well. It’s from a larger work entitled Garden with Sunflowers which was completed by August 8, 1888. Sunflowers… hmm…

And this is a work that he actually went through the trouble of reproducing several times for several different canvases, for several different correspondences and several different colleagues. While traveling in France he was entranced by the sea and painted it with great affection.

I love the colors and the generous brush strokes that give weight to the sea and make it so real. It’s called Boats at Sea Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and it was done ca. May 30/June 5, 1888. Pardon the blurry, that’s what happens when you are a photo guerilla.

The exhibit opened at 9:30am and despite my best intentions I didn’t get there until at least 10, 10:30am. I got right in though it was a touch crowded. With the audio guide and a plan to move along, I got through it in good time. When I left there was a line around the second floor and a 15 minute wait.

For upcoming exhibits check the museum’s website.

The Met has an interesting policy: they post rates but recommend you pay what you like. I paid student rate happily, though some I spoke to put in a dollar or two only, or nothing. That’s a natural response, but to me good art is worth a few dollars more and in the end I was thoroughly satisfied.

A perfect New Year’s Eve day!


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