Paul Gauguin and Van Gogh set up house in the picturesque French town of Arles. Nine weeks produced forty one acknowledged masterpieces which at today’s prices would fetch £1.5 billion on the open market. But was it worth it?
These masters of the Impressionist School had a relationship which at best could be described as tempestuous, and at worst abusive and fans of Gauguin will be disappointed to find out what a jealous, insecure, bullying and vainglorious man he was if the writer Martin Gaysford, an eminent art historian is to be believed.
Van Gogh was a chronically unstable genius, and I would recommend setting a whole day aside to visit the Museum dedicated to him in Amsterdam to reflect upon how a person can transmit so much emotion through an easel. It’s just mind blowing.
Various psychiatrists have gone through the available medical records and tried to reach a diagnosis of what ailed Vincent. No less than ninety one different conclusions have been reached but what is beyond discussion is that Van Gogh was a deeply paranoid individual who suffered from regular bouts of extended hallucinations which tortured him so much that he took his own life.
Gauguin, it seems was paid by Vincent’s brother and bank roller Theo, to keep tabs on the artists mental state and attempt to get him working again.
For a while the arrangement suited both men and Gauguin’s vanity was appealed to as Vincent clearly admired the older man, looking to him for re assurance on a professional and personal level.
Paul, however was a bundle of psychoses himself and this fuelled tremendous conflict and rivalry which spewed onto the canvas in a furious torrent of creativity but resulted in Vincent breaking down and committing the act of self mutilation for which he is so unfortunately famed.
John Simm proves again why for me, he is second only to Christopher Eccleston as Britain’s greatest currently working actor.
The intensity and pathos he portrays in Van Gogh is right up there with, and this is a big call, the best role by a British actor of this century when Simm played Dostoyevsky’s seminal anti hero Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment.
I admit to bias as this book is my favourite by a country mile, having everything I look for in a work.
Emotional intensity, ethical dilemma’s, observations on the human condition plus social and political commentary which is still relevant well over a century after it was written.
When I saw that it had been filmed I feared that no actor could possibly do the role justice. But Simm did and then some, giving a new insight into Rodya’s character and motivations that I for one had missed, despite frequent revisiting.
Simm is versatile and his current role in the unexpected TV hit Life on Mars brings comedy to the table to complement his intensity and insight so well exemplified in the adapted for TV play Blue/Orange.
The Yellow House is a little gem of a piece and I await the re run with anticipation, always a positive sign.
This video gives us some examples of Vincent’s genius.