This is my artroom. One corner of it is devoted to the great Vincent Van Gogh. The Yellow House wall hanging is part of scenery from an art play I wrote, produced, and directed several years ago with some of my sixth grade art students.

Vincent’s still making news. Vincent in Brixton is a fascinating new play being produced in Salisbury, England featuring the time Van Gogh spent in England.

As an artist, Vincent Van Gogh’s medium was two dimensional, but Nicholas Wright’s imagining of his early life and the time he spent in lodgings in Brixton is anything but. It is fully rounded, wonderfully detailed and totally compelling.

Little is known of the time Van Gogh spent as a young man working for an art dealers in London, but Wright weaves the clues and hints in his letters home to draw a picture of how his burgeoning artistic talent is unlocked by the transfiguring power of love.

When Van Gogh met Gauguin is a British television drama about life in the Yellow House in Arles in the South of France.

Putting up with what the rest of us would find insupportable - loneliness, insecurity, mental instability and abject poverty - they locked themselves away in “the Studio of the South” at the now legendary “Yellow House” in Arles in the South of France. They fought, drank and whored like there was no tomorrow. Their evenings would often end with a manic Van Gogh smashing up the furniture in a blind rage. But above all, they painted with a fervour that went way beyond the merely passionate. That creative frenzy proved astonishingly fecundity. During the white heat of those two months, Van Gogh and Gauguin could be said to have invented the concept of modern art. Between them, they produced more than 40 works which are now revered as masterpieces. Van Gogh casually stowed his celebrated cycle of “Sunflower” paintings under his bed. On today’s market, these pieces would command millions of pounds. Not bad for a couple of months’ work.

And yet this period of breathtaking creativity came at a very high price. The painters’ intense working relationship, which always thrived on an acute and uneasy rivalry, eventually tipped over into bitter antipathy, climaxing in the now notorious moment where Van Gogh cut off his ear while muttering about “Judas”. When the artists parted after this traumatic episode, they were husks. They had poured so much of themselves into their endeavours, they emerged from Arles with nothing left to give. Within 18 months, Van Gogh had shot himself in the chest. But he even managed to mess that up; he failed to kill himself outright, and instead bled to death over several excruciating days. A few years later, Gauguin followed his erstwhile best friend to the grave, dying penniless, syphilitic and alone in self-imposed exile in Tahiti.

The Wheat Field Behind St. Paul’s Hospital” is coming to America.

While van Gogh was a patient at an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, a year before his suicide in 1890, he produced a colorful landscape, “The Wheat Field Behind St. Paul’s Hospital.” That painting is said to be the first van Gogh to enter a museum.

Now it is coming to the United States for the first time when it goes on view at the Neue Galerie in Manhattan as part of “Van Gogh and Expressionism,” an exhibition opening on Thursday.

With its brilliant yellows and blues, this work is a prime example of what the exhibition is about: exploring the influence of van Gogh on German and Austrian Expressionism. The show, on view through July 2, will include 80 paintings and drawings. Fourteen works are from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam; the rest are loans from public and private collections around the world, including the Neue Galerie.

Life has a way of coming full circle. Vincent, ignored and ridiculed by the art world when he was alive, is now appreciated for his wonderfully intense and expressionist art. Theo Van Gogh, the direct descendent of Vincent’s beloved brother, Theo, seemed to inherit Vincent’s spirit of living life intensely but was cut down in The Netherlands by an Islamist extremist because of his collaboration with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a short film called Submission.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born author of “Infidel,” learned of a death threat against her when it was stabbed into the nine-times-shot-and-nearly-beheaded body of Theo Van Gogh. They had collaborated on a short film called “Submission” about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures.

Celebrating life through art is now risky with Islamists on the loose throughout the free world.


Friends and fans of the Dutch filmmaker found dead with a note pinned to his chest with a knife unveiled a memorial sculpture Sunday that depicts him screaming near the spot where he was murdered by an Islamic extremist.