Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The debate continues . . .

I hardly knew that when I mentioned my decision to portray Van Gogh as a lefthander in my novel Yellow that the subject might cause such commotion in the blogosphere. My new internet friend Svend Hendriksen--I mentioned him in my last post--continues to send me various proofs of Vincent's lefthandedness. A couple of them certainly bear repeating in this space. First, Svend recommends that I look at Van Gogh's famous Vincent's Bedroom in Arles, a picture the painter cared so much for that he made multiple copies. Svend, with his engineer's eye for detail, points out a few telling features of this painting: 1) the water pitcher on the rear table sits with its handle pointed to the left, a position only favorable to a lefthander; and 2) Vincent chose to put his pillows at the far end at the bed, a position more advantageous to a lefthander. According to Svend, a righthander would naturally put the pillows at the lower end, as getting in and out of that end would be easier for a righthanded person. Svend has sent his analysis to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and presently awaits a response. Svend also references Van Gogh's pictures of potato and peet diggers. About 90% of these drawings portray the diggers as digging in a lefthanded fashion, an unusual abundance given that most of humanity is righthanded.
Meanwhile, a lengthy and informative comment from "Stuart," coming in response to my last post, points out that Gauguin's famous picture of Vincent working in front of an easel shows Vincent holding the brush in his right hand. Now, one must be careful to take at face value anything that Gauguin said, wrote, or painted. Notice his apparently invented account, published in his memoir Avant et Apres, of Vincent publicly charging him with a razor blade. Notice too his taking credit for advising and influencing Vincent during the creation of the Sunflower series, when that series was completed before Gauguin even arrived in Arles! That said, we can't simply discount the fact that in Gaugin's painting he portrays Vincent as a righty. From this and other evidence, Stuart wonders if Van Gogh was ambidextrous, sometimes using his right hand and other times his left. (See Stuart's comment to get his full explanation.) A new and fascinating possibility! If anyone has an addtional insight to add to this unexpectedly hot topic, please let me know. You can comment on this post or email me at johnv@uca.edu.


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