November 25th, 2017| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Master painter Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853–1890) was prolific, creating about 2,100 artworks in a single decade, including over 800 oil paintings—most of these in the last two years of his life. The man committed suicide at 37, poor and mentally ill.

There is more than paint on his canvases though, or on at least one of them—Olive Orchard, held at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, one of at least eighteen in a series of paintings of olive groves done by van Gogh.

Apparently, these trees bore special significance for van Gogh and his feelings for Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. He said once:

I shall not paint a Christ in the Garden of Olives, but shall paint the olive harvest as one might see it today, and by giving the human figure its proper place in it, one might perhaps be reminded of it.”

In any case, Olive Orchard (technically “F715” in the catalog), besides paint, has, of all things, a grasshopper.

Conservator Mary Schafer was examining this work microscopically when she spotted the insect stuck in the thick layers of paint that Van Gogh typically tended to employ.

A grasshopper. Or parts thereof. Sitting amid intricate subtleties of color and brushstroke. Yup, a grasshopper.

At first, Schafer thought she was looking at a leaf or something, until she made out the beast’s head staring back at her. There it was in the shade of an olive tree in the right foreground of Olive Trees.

Apparently, the grasshopper’s abdomen is missing, suggesting that the invader was dead on arrival. Noted Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, the Nelson-Atkins’s senior curator of European art:

It could have just been floating around in the wind or been on the grasses and landed in this painting. Or perhaps, because the insect was stuck near the bottom of the frame, it shows Van Gogh was dragging the cumbersome canvas home along with the rest of his equipment.”

In fact, van Gogh did complain about insect invasions of his works as he was painting outside. He once wrote to his brother, Theo:

But just go and sit outdoors, painting on the spot itself! Then all sorts of things like the following happen— I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the 4 canvases that you’ll be getting, not to mention dust and sand ….”

In any case, this is a special painting with a special inclusion. Said DeGalan:

It just puts us in that moment and that place where they are. In an instant, it takes you to 1889 in a field outside the asylum where this bug had a bad day—or maybe a good day, because we’re thinking about it all these many years later.”

Insects are everywhere, spoiling even a van Gogh! Nothing—and I mean nothing—is perfect, at least on this side of eternity!

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
1 John 5:19

Everything’s soured. Every plan’s skewered.

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley.
Robert Burns, 1785

Oh, well …

But things will be better—one day.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding
so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God and eternal life.
1 John 5:20

That will be a day of van Gogh sans grasshoppers!

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