Monday, September 12, 2011

Van Gogh: In the Eyes of the Beholder

This last weekend on NPR, I listened to an interview of a Dutch musician and artist by the name of Van Eck. He was describing and promoting his album titled, "Van Gogh by Van Eck."

Personally, I have always felt that Van Gogh's painting "The Potato Eaters" was a sad comment on the daily lives of farm peasants in those days. The people in the painting are gathered around a single light, a plate of potatoes and what looks like a tea drink. The conversation between the subjects seems intense. The first time I saw this painting, I felt a sadness for what seemed like a harsh life.

Van Eck saw something quite different. In the interview, he stated that upon his examination of Van Gogh's life, he observed that Van Gogh had a difficult relationship with his father. Therefore, Van Eck felt that based on Van Gogh's family yearnings, the artist wanted to portray a poor family sharing a meal and the happenings of the day with the pleasure of being in the bosom of the family. That is the basis for an upbeat mood in Van Eck's musical piece titled, "One of the Family." (You can listen to a sampling by clicking here and scrolling down to song)

What do you feel when you look at " The Potato Eaters?" If you listened to the music sampling, did you find your opinion of the painting shift?


  1. I listened but I still had a problem relating the upbeat music to the image. James

  2. I like the song, but it's hard to see in the picture a nice family gathering. Our present-day lives bear no resemblance to that life, with our relative plenty and ease. In earlier times the people were people just like us. I have to assume family was important to them. Perhaps those in the painting were among the better-off ones in that particular time and place. How would we know? sz

  3. I have never seen this painting. The dark colors & the expressions of despair brought a feeling of sadness. I don't think the song was representative of the painting. However, being married to a musician, artists interpret things differently. I saw a wonderful Van Gogh exhibit at the Norton Simon museum in Pasadena. Kate

  4. Nice music, but hard to relate to the painting. I guess everyone has the right to their own interpretation... but i found it hard to associate a light, upbeat theme with the somber shades of the image. -birdie

  5. Here's the artist VAN GOGH by VAN ECK posting. How nice to find your posts here... Obviously, it indeed will always be an artist interpretation. However, our music team studied van Gogh for over more than a year. We learned so much, especially as van Gogh believed in what he did, he was able to focus, put passion into his work and he remained persistent up to the last moment of his life... Unfortunately he could not share the success.
    However, this has been the greatest lesson that was ever taught to me. In case you want to learn more about this big project, go to: I'm anxious to hear more from you guys, let me know…

  6. You know, the artist is right. I think in the USA much of what we know about Van Gogh is his depression & the fact he cut his ear off. The man was much more, how else could his paintings be so colorful and full of life? I still see despair in this painting, but they are a family and together. I need to reread a book on Van Gogh. Kate