Just a quick post today to share an excellent art program. “In the Footsteps of Vincent van Gogh” is currently available through Wondrium — an online learning platform previously known as “Great Courses Plus.”
I’ve been a subscriber to the service for many years, and I’ve enjoyed the courses. It’s not an expensive service, and you can often find special promotions offering reduced rates. There is a free trial period, too, so even if you don’t currently have a Wondrium subscription, you might want to give it a try, at least long enough to watch this excellent lecture series about Vincent van Gogh.
There are fifteen episodes, presented by Jean-Pierre Isbouts, an art historian as well as the director and host of the film Manet in Love.
Here’s the quick “blurb” about the course:
Discover the secrets behind the life and work of one of the most recognized, yet misunderstood, artists of the modern world, Vincent van Gogh. This 15-episode course by Professor Jean-Pierre Isbouts will take you on a fascinating journey as you unravel the mysteries of the artist’s one-of-a-kind style. Along the way, you will gain fresh insight and a deepened appreciation for the undeniable genius behind a troubled but brilliant artist.
The episodes are as follows:
The World of Vincent van Gogh
Begin by tying together several fascinating facts about Van Gogh’s life, which then propel you to ask questions that lead to the uncovering of mysteries: Which parts of his life influenced his unique work—now worth hundreds of millions on the art market—and what drove him to a desperate act in the end?
Early Years in Brabant
Take a journey through Vincent’s younger years as Jean-Pierre shares a personal connection and details the events that marked Van Gogh and shaped his career. From learning French and English to taking his very first art class, Brabant and its landscapes leaves an indelible mark on the young Vincent.
The Turn toward Art
Discover how Van Gogh makes an abrupt turn in his life trajectory and moves from ministry and missionary work to a life in art, aided by two influential men in his family. You will also begin to understand how difficulties with his parents and scandals with women will affect him.
The Nuenen Period
What is it about the modest Protestant community of Nuenen that spurs Van Gogh to hit his stride in painting, and why does he leave his extensive body of work behind when he moves? This lecture dives into how the perceived richness and nobility of simple peasant life inspired the artist.
Vincent in Antwerp
In many ways, it is in Antwerp that Vincent begins the remarkable evolution that will ultimately make him one of the most important painters in modern art. Explore his journey at the Antwerp Academy, where he slowly sheds the darkness of Hague and begins to play with light and color.
The Paris Art Scene in the 1880s
Did you know how much the Impressionist movement in Paris depended on Vincent’s brother, Theo? Find out the truth behind Theo’s enormous influence in promoting and establishing the movement and bringing together the Impressionist artists of the day, with scenes from Jean-Pierre’s television drama Manet in Love.
Vincent and Theo in Paris
What would you do if a difficult relative dropped in without warning and announced they would be living with you from now on? Learn how Theo manages the situation when Vincent arrives in Paris, and revel in the way that Vincent inhales the wonderful new movements of Montmartre.
Vincent and the Post-Impressionists
By the 1880s, the Impressionists have slowly begun to drift apart after the deaths of Frédéric Bazille and Édouard Manet. Follow Vincent’s journey as he immerses himself in the artist life and absorbs all he can from the artists around him in friendship and work, such as Seurat, Bernard, Gauguin, and Toulouse-Lautrec.
The Spring of Provence
Having exhausted all he could learn in Paris, Vincent travels to what he refers to as “his Japan,” or Arles, France—living in his famed “Yellow House.” It is here that he begins to move beyond Impressionism and matures into his own style. Although his Yellow House was destroyed in World War II, modern 3-D animation shows us what it looked like.
Vincent’s Classical Period
As he settles down in Arles and opens himself to the power of bold, primary colors to evoke emotion, Vincent begins to feel the need for the companionship he had in Paris. Which of his artist friends will eventually agree to move to Arles and live with him in his Yellow House?
The Studio of the South
Perhaps the most well-known fact about Vincent’s troubled life is that he cuts his ear. Dive into the horrifying story of what it is that inspires him to do something so drastic, and how the people around him respond to the crisis—culminating in the loss of his beloved Yellow House.
The Asylum at Saint-Rémy
Confined to an asylum, Van Goh enters a dark period of illness—yet it is out of this place that he draws inspiration to create his best-known masterpiece, The Starry Night. Listen as Professor Isbouts describes his research on what diagnoses were likely behind Vincent’s “insanity.”
The Art World in 1890
While Vincent is sequestered away at the asylum at Saint-Remy, the art world is moving on. Amazingly, Vincent is gaining growing recognition among art critics, with works shown at an annual exhibition in Brussels. But is Paris ready for him when he returns to meet Theo and Johanna’s newborn baby?
Vincent in Auvers-sur-Oise
In this lovely village along the Oise River, Vincent creates what is arguably his most developed and integrated work, including two portraits of his friend, Paul Gachet. However, always brewing underneath is the guilt, torment, and loneliness that will eventually drive him to his final day.
An End and a Beginning
There are several theories surrounding Vincent’s death, including one featuring a boy in a Buffalo Bill costume. In this episode, we experience Vincent’s last hours. We then follow the amazing arc that will lift Vincent from obscurity to the worldwide fame he enjoys today.
Another thing I like about Wondrium is that “guidebooks” — basically transcripts of the lectures — are available for subscribers to download as PDF files. The guide for “In the Footsteps of Vincent van Gogh” includes a bibliography, always a helpful resource.
If there is any one thing I didn’t care for in this program… well, there’s the music. Fittingly, the background music is largely from French Impressionist composers, featuring works such as Clair de Lune by Debussy, and a piano version of Pavane pour une infante defunte” by Ravel. I’ve played all of the compositions at one time or another, and I enjoyed hearing them as part of the program — the first time. Unfortunately the same pieces are repeated over and over throughout the different episodes. Other than that, It’s an excellent presentation, one that kept me interested and intrigued and taught me a lot about van Gogh that I didn’t know.
I highly recommend the program.