Sunday, May 13, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 117 and ABC Wednesday

"R" is for Relationship
This week’s prompt reminded me (it always reminds me of something) of the time a few decades back when I received a marvelous assignment from the French Government Tourist Office – to make a film on Provence.
That, as I’m sure you know, is the magnificent region in the south of France, named Provence because a couple of thousand years ago the invaders from Italy knew it as a Roman province.
The region still has that combination of sunbaked earth and startlingly blue sky, enlivened with vivid splashes of color, that made it so popular with artists.
It’s a region where you can find farmers who make their living growing lavender.
I decided to make Arles, one of the key cities of the area, my headquarters while shooting the film because of a couple of guys who made it their HQ too: the one reponsible for this week’s prompt, Paul Gauguin, and his friend – for a while at least – Vincent van Gogh.
Two very different types, with two very different styles. Above, Gauguin; below, van Gogh.
By the way, forgive the digression, but have you ever asked a true, native-born Dutchman how they pronounce van Gogh? It’s worth doing. They pronounce it, as nearly as I can reproduce it on my keyboard, “fan HOACHCCCHHH.” (Be sure to wear rain gear.)
To get back to one of my usual interminable stories, I have always been fascinated by Paul Gauguin.
After living a comfortable life as a stockbroker, and you know how comfortable they are, he one day packed it all in and decided to devote his life to painting.
He headed down to, of all places, Arles, and teamed up with Vincent v G. They could, the two of them, remake the art world of that time.
As it turned out, however, living with Vincent was no day at the plage. In the beginning they were good friends. But gradually Gauguin changed from a fawning admirer to a critic and van Gogh did not appreciate his suggestions as to how he could improve as an artist. They soon quarreled often.
Fact is, Vincent’s mental health was obviously deteriorating. At one point he went after Paul with a razor.
Speaking of razors, it was about this time that there occurred the famous episode of van Gogh’s ear. To get the facts sraight, he did not cut off his ear. He just cut off the lower part of his left ear lobe. He wrapped the severed tissue in newspaper and handed it to a prostitute named Rachel, asking her to "keep this object carefully."
What Rachel had to say to him in response is not known.
Gauguin left Arles, and a few days later Van Gogh was hospitalized. They never saw each other again.
However, the heavily melodramatic relationship of Vin and Paul aside, Arles was, and still is, a splendid town.
They’ve got a genuine Roman colosseum that’s a stunner.
I shot some of my film in it, photographing a bullfight.
As you might expect, what with the laid-back atmosphere of Provence, the French version of a bullfight is a bit different from that of Spain. The bull doesn’t get killed; he has a little strip of cloth that he juggles between his horns and the “bullfighters” risk their lives to navigate right up to the animal, snatch that thing off his forehead and then jump over the fence and into the stands before the bull can gore them to death. A weird sport but fun to watch. This may be where Al Gore got his name.
(Submitted also to Sunday Scribblings.)

43 comments:

Laurel's Quill said...

Thanks for the background. I love Gauguin paintings...I read that though many people consider him as an impressionist, he was really "post"...synthesism????

Berowne said...

The experts, of whom I am definitely not one, tell me he is correctly labeled post-impressionist.

Greta said...

I wandered with you down the paths, through the countryside, and right into the middle of a bull fight...and loved every moment of it. It would a difficult trip for me to describe to someone else, but it was fun!

Brian Miller said...

yikes on the razor attack...crazy...bet that lavender field smells amazing as you walk through running your fingers through it...thanks for the bit of background...

Berowne said...

Greta: "Loved every moment of it."
Thanks so much, Greta. Hope you and all the Garbo family are doing well. :-)

Kathe W. said...

thanks for the tour- always enjoy where you take us!

Roger Owen Green said...

Learned a lot, even though I was passingly familiar with these artists.

kaykuala said...

You always make it different,always invariably from a real experience. It's such a beautiful narration. Thanks for sharing, Berowne!

Hank

Rinkly Rimes said...

I always swoop on your offerings first! You've had such a fascinating life and you teach us so much. (I knew all about today's anecdotes though.....even so you presented them in such a readable and anecdotal way. Thanks.)

R. Burnett Baker said...

You never fail to teach us! I so enjoyed this lesson. I'm posting a link here to a song by Michael Franks (duet with Brian Mitchell) that you might enjoy listening to. Titled "In The Yellow House", it's about these two artists brief association. It tells a story very well, whether or not accurate, and makes the listener at least imagine these two odd souls' lives. Give it a listen if you get a chance!
Rick
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxrjjaGS6YE

chrisd said...

Loved the paintings. Loved the pictures. LOVED the background stories. I didn't realize that Gaugin and Van Gogh knew each other.

Poor Vincent. Say what you want about modern medicine. It would have helped him, I think.

This was so interesting!

ninotaziz said...

Dear Berowne,
I am as far away from Arles as you can get, except for the bluest skies. Having a lovely Malaysian breakfast of roti canai at our neighbourhood cafe. Yet for a moment, I was at the lavender fields, its perfume in the air - oh so lovely!

Thank you.

Karen S. said...

Oh what a resourceful read this was! Thanks so much for such a wild and amazing life they led. I've learned so much in just one post, and enjoyed how you held my interest (and curious nature!) by your writing! Very nice!

Berowne said...

chrisd: "Loved the paintings. Loved the pictures. LOVED the background stories."
Loved the comment - thanks.

izzy said...

What fun as always! especially the
pronunciation- I have heard many back of the throat variations...
thanks

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks for writing this one. I didn't know how Provence got it's name but I knew of the lavender fields. I, too, have always been intrigued by Gauguin. I think he's my favorite. This post is one of my favorites.

Berowne said...

Yvonne O: "This post is one of my favorites."
And this comment is one of mine. :-) Thanks.

Trellissimo said...

I see, a history of art lesson, as opposed to just history?! LOL

Lyn said...

I agree about the pronunciation of Van Gogh, but if I said it, it would sound pretentious..leave it to you to provide a necessary laugh or two! Thanks for the bull part....

Berowne said...

Lyn: "Thanks for the bull part..."
Most of my posts seem to have a bull part. :-)

Helena said...

Always an interesting lesson to be had here! I fancy my chances on certain quiz shows now!!!

Linda said...

I enjoyed this journey to the south of France. Imagine retiring from your work, taking up painting and having the opportunity to work with Van Gough!! Such opportunities would never happen in today's world. Thanks for sharing this, Berowne.=D

Berowne said...

Linda: "Imagine retiring from your work, taking up painting and having the opportunity to work with Van Gogh!!"
Except that it appears he would very soon get on your nerves. :-)

Tina´s PicStory said...

wonderful pics from the provence! :)

Helen said...

Fascinating ~ every word!!!

Reader Wil said...

Interesting post about my fellow countryman van Gogh. As true Dutch woman I can pronounce it well, and.... Without raingear! Lol!
I know at least four other languages that have the same
g sounds like Welsh in Llan, Spanish inJuan, Greek and Hebrew in Hadassah. So we are not the only nation with a funny pronunciation.
Thanks for participating in ABC Wednesday!
Wil, ABC Team.( I wrote about: Rescue , Resistance to repression about the brave Danes during WWII)
Have a great day!

Berowne said...

Dear Reader Wil: Glad you weren't too offended by my van Gogh pronunciation. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Stafford Ray said...

Information packed and a delight as always, but it took a moment to place the Al Gore reference, then I laughed at bot it and at my delay of understanding.
As you remarked to Dave King, 'let's face it, you can write!'

Berowne said...

Stafford R: "It took a moment to place the Al Gore reference."
Yes, he wasn't as big in N S Wales as up this way. Thanks for the comment.

Black Jack's Carol said...

It made me happy to learn that the bull doesn't get killed in France, and I could almost feel the lavender wafting my way in that marvellous picture.

bluegrassnotes said...

One of my favorite areas. Lovely photos and art. What an interesting job it sounds like you had.

Dave King said...

Lots to enthuse about here. I thoroughly enjoyed the background as yo sketched it in, particularly that of Arles, which was all new to me. Thanks for.

sush said...

superb:-)

Berowne said...

Thanks, sush. A short, succinct comment - but much appreciated.

Sheilagh Lee said...

thanks for the background you offering on these painters and the lovely pictures and information on Provence.

Catfish Tales said...

Hahaha. Actually, there's no 'f' pronuciation of 'v' in Dutch. It's pronounced [vohn khOh'] with a very light glottal sound made at the end. You could liken this to the end sound of the word 'loch', pronouncing the 'gogh' like this at both ends. Best of luck to you!

Tumblewords: said...

Wonderful journey. Thank you!

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Perfect example of van Gogh's work, in particular. Gaugin's best work, for my money, was done in Tahiti and thereabouts. Had no idea these two greats were friends, although I understand van Gogh never sold a single painting?

I never liked bullfighting, but hey, this one is not as bad as Spain. Hemingway romanticized it, but it's pure blood sport... Thanks, B! Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/05/18/rich-and-richer-abc-wednesday/

Berowne said...

Tumblewords: "Wonderful journey."
Thanks, Tumble.

Di Eats the Elephant said...

Enchante!

Berowne said...

Merci, Madame Mange-l'Elephant!

Tigerbrite said...

I enjoyed the ramble through Provence. I really admire Vincente's work. Didn't Paul get his ear cut off... or am I mixing them up ?

Bee's Blog said...

You always have such wonderful stories to tell. I can smell the lavender from here. Never liked it as a child (maybe because the gypsies brought it to the front door and they scared me) but age brings reason. After studying the benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy for many years, I've used it as a soother - on pillows, on people, in candles - you name it........... Back to Gaugin - a couple of years ago I wrote a blog about the relationship between Gaugin and VanCough (it was raining!) in which I recounted that there was a strong suggestion that the two had had an argument over a lady of the night and in fury, Gaugin cut off Van Gogh's ear.

 
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