For my first day in Melbourne, I did a pretty good job covering some interesting places in the city: Queen Victoria Market and Bourke Street. We were now moving to our last stop, the National Gallery of Victoria, where I would be meeting a really important person– Vincent Van Gogh.
When we arrived at the National Gallery, I was surprised by the number of people lining up to see this special exhibit. I was expecting droves of people and a miles long line stretching as far as the eye could see. Instead, there was a small line with about 30-40 people lining up. Paying $28 (Php. 1,100~), me and two other ADEs were given a one time access to see the National Gallery’s exhibit on Van Gogh and his interpretation of the four seasons.
The first part of the exhibit was an audio-visual presentation on each of the four seasons, in it were vivid descriptions and images of each of the seasons. The usual spring flowers, the deep yellows of rice fields during summer, the gray and ethereal feeling of winter, and the orange tint of world during fall. We didn’t really stay long here and only caught snippets of the presentation, we were itching to see Van Gogh and his masterpieces.
Upon entering the exhibit, there were written descriptions of Van Gogh, chronicling his life, his work, and his inspirations. From there, it was a free for all, as we silently made away from one season to the next. My favorite of course were his spring and summer works, they were lively, spirited, and blooming with color.
The wonderful yellows in the summer exhibit were just loud, and at the time, made me think of summers back home. I especially liked his rice fields, the bundle of wheat with the deep strokes that seemed to make the bushes come alive. It was all very rustic and you could almost feel the sun and the slight breeze from his paintings.
My next favorite season was his interpretation of spring. If summer was all about splashes of yellow here and there on a rice field, spring was livelier. Seeing Van Gogh’s work was like watching a dance, there is a deep interplay of colors that seemed to just waltz in and out to some hidden melody. It was a musical that everyone was invited to and you couldn’t stop.
On the other hand, the two other seasons: fall and winter, were drab and if the first two seasons were lively, the last two were just depressing. Spring had this depressive, forlorn and weary state to it, as if it were chronicling the master’s steady mental decline. Winter had a more Marxist/socialist tone to it. Instead of painting landscapes, Van Gogh captured the ugliness of winter against the backdrop of farmers tilling the land. Their shapes seemed to resonate against socialist propaganda, and to me, might have been an early inspiration for those kinds of work.
At the end of the exhibit, I came face to face with the master himself, Vincent Van Gogh. His famous self-portrait was staring right back at me. I stared back at him, watching and observing him with reverence, noting the swatches of colors, the detailed and deft brushstrokes that accentuated his facial features. It was a surreal moment and something I would never forget.
So I leave the National Gallery with fond memories. There was no more need to visit any other exhibit, though I am sure there were even more astounding pieces. Just having a face-to-face with Van Gogh and seeing some of his works, sans his Starry Night, was already an experience for me.
National Gallery of Victoria
180 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Open daily from 10am to 5pm
Website: National Gallery of Victoria