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In New York City I Find Myself Again Staring at Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Straw Hat
Van Gogh

I went to New York to catch the end of the New Yorker Festival and hang out with friends and ended up where I always seem to end up in New York, uptown at the Metropolitan Museum.  I don’t claim to be an expert on museums, but it seems to me to be an excellent museum, in the same league as the Louvre.  So many rooms with so many paintings and the view from the terrace of Central Park certainly tops off the art.

 This self-portrait by was painted on the back of one of his earlier works, that of a peasant woman peeling potatoes, possibly a study for The Potato Eaters, so, rather than hanging it among the other Van Goghs along the wall, the Museum has placed it in a double-sided stand in the middle of the room.  A viewer can see both sides; both paintings.

 I hope that the reason I have such respect for Van Gogh is not that he was so bereft of acclaim during his lifetime and so universally admired today.  Put in monetary terms, accounts say he sold one painting in his lifetime, for four hundred francs, the equivalent at the time of seventy-five dollars.  Now his paintings fetch more than any other painter’s.  One sold last year for over eighty million dollars—here’s the link: 


I would prefer to think that it’s the man’s uncommon humility that draws me to him.  Here’s a quote that lists what he felt was needed to paint: "To do good work one must eat well, be well housed, have one's fling from time to time, smoke one's pipe, and drink one's coffee in peace."

There is some concern that this painting is a fake.  I’m willing to take the Met’s opinion that it’s not, but for those who love conspiracies, here’s the link:  http://www.vggallery.com/misc/fakes/fakes2.htm




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