From 11th March to 6th July 2014 the Musee D'Orsay mounted a superb Vincent Van Gogh exhibition based on the essay by Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society. Artaud had spent nine years in a psychiatric hospital so was well situated as an artist to write about a painter who is often deemed to be mad. Artaud challenged this assessment and his theories about van Gogh are thought-provoking: did society through its indifference drive van Gogh to shoot himself at 37? Artaud avers that van Gogh’s work disturbed society, whose shunning of van Gogh’s work drove the artist to despair.
"Van Gogh therefore committed suicide because the collective consciousness as a whole could no longer tolerate him". (Antonin Artaud)
Photography of the van Gogh and Artaud exhibitions was naturally restricted, but we were in awe standing in front of some of my favourite van Gogh self-portraits: the blue in his portraits has to be seen to be believed (had he used a cobalt teal or cerulean blue or a mix? It was hard to discern in its brilliance), and photographs and prints do not do his work justice.
Though exhilarated by van Gogh's art, I was thoughtful and sad when I left the exhibition.
But what a magnificent art museum the Musée d'Orsay is! It was formerly the Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station constructed from 1898 to 1900. Put it on your bucket list!