I recently saw the Art Institute’s of Chicago’s excellent “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibit. The piece de resistance is all 3 of his very similar “Bedroom” paintings side by side, with a unique video display comparing them in detail. The exhibit also shows works of other painters who inspired him and how those mentors influenced his painting style changes.
This exhibit truly showed how much Van Gogh tried to improve his technique by learning new styles, testing different materials, and how observant he was of the world surrounding him. Like Claude Monet’s haystacks or lily pads paintings, one might find the final results repetitive. However, the hours and details to create such similar works in different lighting and seasons amazes me.
Remember that these are not photographs that can be taken 30 shots per second—these are oil paintings that take days and months to complete. The thought process, the changes a stroke style or layering makes can change the whole feeling of the work.
I was impressed with how his painting styles were also transformed over the years by his surroundings, his interests, as he learned from his contemporaries, and by his uneven mental health. From his works and personal letters on display, it seemed the essence of the subjects he explored remained similar.
Not only did I admire his paintings, I was able to compare the 3 bedrooms paintings; owned by 3 different museums, this was a rare feat.
We can all learn from this exhibit to keep expanding our knowledge and abilities. Test, change, absorb, improve, modify, test again in our daily work and home routines will open our minds to unexpected opportunities and results.
P.S. If you have never been to the Art Institute of Chicago, I highly recommend it! Voted #1 museum in the world by Trip Advisor last year, I am lucky to be able to visit a couple times annually.