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Van Gogh's added realism

By guest editor Richard Caldwell

Posted November 13, 2017
Van Gogh's added grasshopper realism
Can you see it? Olive Trees by Vincent van Gogh (1889). © Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Richard Caldwell reports on the grasshopper thousands of eyes failed to spot.

Curators from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Kansas have found a thing which bookworm curators across first world nations of the past nigh-130 years have completely missed altogether.

While examining their collection of 104 French paintings and pastels, including works by the one-of-a-kind Vincent van Gogh, a tiny grasshopper was spotted embedded in the lower foreground of the said painter's Olive Trees piece.

grasshopper found in van gogh painting
There it is! The grasshopper in question. © Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The artist was well-known for preferring to conduct his work outside, so the idea itself of foreign objects inadvertently finding their ways into his paintings is not so strange, yet the fact of so many decades of scrutiny passing without any art snobs seeing what was in front of them is admittedly a riot.

Still, considering how the man famously removed one of his own ears in an act which revolutionized the DIY cosmetic surgery industry, who is to say whether he did not purposefully plant the grasshopper himself, perhaps as an offering to his personal demons?

So, the exciting race is on for Van Gogh collectors the world over to cut up their own pride and glories to see what prizes might lie beneath the brushstrokes, with Vegas currently offering substantial odds on Starry Night possessing either a glow-worm or a firefly.

Maybe that famous ear in fact can be found within his Skull with Burning Cigarette image, a work which was clearly ahead of its time for suggesting by way of harsh intricacy and decidedly earthen tones how, in spite of consumerism inevitably leading to the death of the human spirit, mankind's attachment to the hedonistic products of commercialism guarantees a debt which continues beyond the grave, financially and spiritually.

Cheers, Richard. Always been partial to a spot of Van Gogh. While the oft-repeated claim that he only ever sold one painting during his lifetime is not actually true (read this, for instance), he certainly did live a life of poverty, obscurity and insanity prior to topping himself with a bullet to the chest. It was only years later that this key progenitor of modern art started gaining the recognition he quite rightly deserves. And on that note, here's the Stranglers.

Incidentally, if you've got the time to spare, I strongly suggest watching Robert Altman's excellent biopic Vincent & Theo, which at press time you can view on YouTube here. Altman's a master and this is a corker.

See also The puzzle of 3D reality, posted 2/11/17.

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Richard Caldwell used to write for the now sadly defunct New Comics Day. Fortunately, his writings still abound elsewhere on the interweb, such as on his flippin' ace blog that you are strongly advised to check out here.

Engage with the Rake & Herald on FaceBook here and Twitter here. Better still, buy a T-shirt here.

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