ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Van Gogh: Up Close

What gorgeous weather we've been having here in Ottawa the past couple of weeks.  Check out the blue skies in the photos below!  So it was an absolute pleasure to head to the National Gallery of Canada with a friend yesterday to see the Van Gogh: Up Close exhibit, which runs until September 3.  You can enjoy beautiful weather even while inside this gallery, given the large number of windows and beautiful vistas from within.  It is always fun to walk past "Maman" the sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.  The National Gallery acquired this sculpture in 2005 at a cost of 3.2 million dollars.  It caused a lot of controversy at the time because it ate up 1/3 of the Gallery's budget for an entire year.

If you plan to see the Van Gogh exhibit, do get there early in the day as all the parking in the garage was taken when I got there at 11:30 a.m.  It did give me a reason to park in the Byward Market and enjoy a nice walk on a beautiful day.  You might also want to see if you can purchase tickets on-line ahead of time because the line-up yesterday was pretty sizable!  Inside, the exhibit itself was also crowded with people.  Waiting to see each painting gave my friend and I a chance to talk.
The paintings themselves seemed paler and duller than what I have seen on-line and in books.  I have to wonder if a lot of the works published on the web and in print have been enhanced.  Van Gogh's palette seemed to me quite drab, perhaps because of the limited pigments available in his time.  Even a poppy field seemed somehow drab, and yellow dandelions were outlined with black paint (in the hopes of making them stand out against yellow-green foliage?). 
It was great to see the show, but alas most of my favorite paintings were missing.  Such as these:
Wheat Field With Rising Sun may be my absolute favorite Van Gogh painting.  I have been thinking about how gorgeous that wheatfield would look recreated with long stitches of hand-dyed thread.  Just look at the texture in it! 
Of course I do also love Van Gogh's famous Starry Starry Night Painting, however, here is another less famous one that really attracts me!  This one is called Starry Night over the Rhone.
This one is called Wheat Fields Under Threatening Skies.  I seem to have a thing for wheat fields?  The colours in this one seem so dramatic, but I wonder if they really are that dramatic in real life? 
Now wouldn't Sower With Setting Sun look great in hand-dyed stitches as well?  If you research this painting on the web, you will find pictures where the field is blue as well as pictures where it is purple, like in the photo below. 
While I don't care at all for his sunflowers in vases, I think Van Gogh's close-up studies of sunflowers are just masterful! 
After seeing the show, we enjoyed lunch at the Gallery's cafeteria.  The outdoor tables provide a stunning view of Parliament Hill 
as well as the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ottawa River.
I've spent a good amount of time in the studio this week, and my new piece is coming along.  Still haven't started ironing the 120 meters of fabric I dyed.  Speaking of dyeing, Denise sent a photo of her results from last week's dyeing class at Dragonfly Fabrics.  She amazed herself at the results of both exercises, and plans to use many of the fabrics in the poppy quilt she started in a class with me a few months ago.
Hoping you are enjoying blue skies in your part of the world!


  1. So interesting that you thought his paintings were drab in person in comparison with on-line photos. I do love his work, I think because the colors he used are the ones I gravitate towards, but haven't ever seen any in person.

    Blue skies have returned here in NC after a few days of overcast and cooler temps but the heat will return, too, I'm afraid.

    1. I love his work too Laura, and I have to say I don't love it as much seeing how drab some of it was. But then none of my favorite paintings were there. I think for me it is the movement in the pieces that I love. But how could anything painted in Provence be less than lovely ;-))?? The heat is returning here too.


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