Van Gogh in Les Baux de Provence: What Would Vincent Say?

The Quarry

Les Carrières de Lumières (quarries of lights) in Les Baux de Provence, France is a disused quarry turned art gallery. But it’s not your run of the mill art gallery. Here the artwork is projected onto the old stone walls which creates a stunning effect. It’s all set to music and is continually changing as you walk through. The exhibition currently running is of Vincent Van Gogh’s work, and it’s amazing. 

Vincent and Provence

Vincent Van Gogh moved to Arles in the south of France in 1888 at the age of 35. There he was inspired by the light, the colors, and the ever-changing landscape. His time in Arles and later in the hospital in St. Remy was a prolific period for him. Many of his best-known works are from this time. It’s interesting to think that the quarry where his paintings are being showcased is just down the road from St. Remy where he lived in the asylum.

Unfortunately, during Vincent’s lifetime, the value of his work wasn’t recognized and he only sold one painting. So as I walked through this amazing space looking at his paintings which were being projected larger than life on the quarry walls, I couldn’t help but wonder what the artist, himself, would think if he could see it. 

Below is my idea of what it might be like if Vincent would wander into the exhibition:


What Would Vincent Say?

As Vincent walks in, he catches his breath,
He’s swept away by the waves of color swirling around him,
His favorite yellows, blues, greens float by.

But wait a minute… 
He’s seen these images before, 
Could they be? 
Yes, they are…
These are his paintings!
He’s surrounded, enveloped by his own creation.
 
These are the paintings he poured his soul into,
The paintings he filled with the south of France,
With sunflowers, cypress trees, wheat fields, olive trees…
The very paintings that no one wanted to buy. 
No one understood them,
No one could see the beauty in them.
 
But now people have come… 
Lots of people have come, 
To see his masterpieces.
Vincent glances around again
As he walks, smiling, toward the exit.
He sighs with satisfaction,

Then he jumps up and clicks his heels, 
Jabs the air with his fist, and shouts,
“YES! I knew they were good!”

This is me completely absorbed into the exhibition

Have a look at the Carrières de Lumières website. The Van Gogh exhibition is paired with a Japanese exhibit (Van Gogh took inspiration from Japanese prints). It runs until 5 Jan 2020. If you get a chance, go see it.

Here is a great article about this exhibition by Phoebe Thomas at the Lou Messugo blog.


Van Gogh – A Tricky Name

Do you know how to pronounce Vincent’s last name? Van Gogh is a Dutch name that seems to pose a problem for other nationalities. Here’s how some of us have solved the pronunciation problem.

  • American – Van GOH– The Americans keep it simple. They just forget about those last two pesky letters and say Van GOH.
  • British – Van GOFF or Van GOKH– Some Brits pronounce the “gh” like an “f.” After all it works in other words such as “tough.” Other Brits pronounce the last bit with a guttural sound as in the Scottish word loch.
  • French – Van GOG – The French stick with their own pronunciation rules in which the last letter is not pronounced. That leaves them with Van GOG.
  • Dutch – Van KHOKH (kh as in Scottish loch)– Of course, Dutch is the original so this is how Vincent would have introduced himself. 

If you would like to listen to some of these pronunciations, you can have a listen here.

How do you pronounce this famous artist’s name?


Read about the legends and stories of Provence in my book.

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Margo Lestz

Margo has authored four books about France. She has a BA in Liberal Studies with International Emphasis and enjoys travel, languages, history, writing, and experiencing other cultures.

6 comments

  1. Thank you Margo. Really super post – interesting exhibition and I love “Vincent’s thoughts”. I think you could be spot on for Mr Goff !!

    1. Thanks Lisa. I just went to the London Van ‘Goff’ exhibit today at Tate Britain. It’s just a shame that he had such a tumultuous life. But I think he would be pretty pleased now about being one of the most famous artists in the world. That would make anyone jump up and click their heels… 🙂

  2. Great Margo. Your photos show how wonderful this exhibition is. Pity I can’t go! I agree with you on VanGogh’s thoughts – if only he (and his brother) could see how his work is now admired and valued. Another lovely visit for you from London is to go to Auvers sur Oise, where Van Gogh died after a terrible gun accident. The Eurostar then an RER to the suburb of Paris from either the Gare du Nord or St Lazare. It looks like a quiet village in countryside, yet is in the banlieu of Paris. I know you would love it as I did a few years ago. Best wishes, Paula

    1. Hi Paula, Thanks for the tip about Auvers sur Oise. I’ll definitely have to do that.
      These types of light projection shows are becoming more popular. There is one in Paris in an old foundry which is showing the same exhibition. It’s a different and other-worldly way to experience the art.

    1. Hi Phoebe. Your post about this exhibition was so thorough and wonderful it just had to be shared. 🙂
      Hope you are having a great summer. I really enjoyed my time in Provence and came back feeling rejuvenated.

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