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Posts tagged ‘Van Gogh Museum’

My Van Gogh Bedroom heads for Beijing!

A few months ago, I was on the brink of being inspired by another great artist in creating a further painting in my interpretative abstract collection when I received an important email. It was an artist who has inspired me several times before, the one and only master of colour and of passionately applied brush strokes, Vincent Van Gogh. The email I received flew into my inbox almost at the moment when I applied my signature to canvas. I had been contacted by the prestigious Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. An opportunity had arisen, they told me, to submit contemporary artworks inspired by Van Gogh to be considered for a new globally important project. I did not hesitate to apply, and amongst those works I sent was the new work I had been working on when their email had been received: Vincent’s Bedroom, an abstractive interpretation of Van Gogh’s most famous work depicting his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles, and presented here on The Daily Norm for the first time.

Vincent Bedroom FINAL

Vincent’s Bedroom (after Van Gogh) (2016, ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

A few weeks passed, and I was delighted to receive the news that not only had this new painting been accepted by the prestigious museum, but likewise two others painted when the same Dutch genius inspired me in the past: The Sweet Potato Eaters (based on Van Gogh’s famous The Potato Eaters) and my Norm version of his Self-Portrait with bandaged ear.

The months rolled by, during which time I waited in excited anticipation to hear from the museum what would happen to the images of my work. Thrillingly, it has now been announced that digital reproductions of my paintings will be included as part of a brand new interactive exhibition, the Meet Vincent Van Gogh experience, which will premier in Beijing in China before going off on tour. I may not have travelled anywhere near as far, but I am overwhelmed with pride that images of my paintings will be going in my place to the other side of the globe.


The original inspiration: Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh (first version, 1888 – Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

All that remains is to wish the Van Gogh Museum the best of luck in this exiting new venture, and to thank them in turn for their incredible support of my work. It’s not the first time I have been lucky enough to have my work included in an installation by that world-renowned museum, but it is a uniquely new experience for my works to go to Asia. You never know, I may get over to China myself to see them.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

Amsterdam Part II: Insight into two masters of introspection: Van Gogh and Anne Frank

That familiar pang in my legs and feet, pulsing with a heavy burning sensation, is always a good sign at the end of a day spent exploring a new city. It tends to signify a heavy day’s sightseeing and usually a substantial intake of cultural enrichment… Galleries and museums are deceptively exhausting. Why hasn’t anyone invented a gallery on a conveyor belt, whereby the viewer takes a cinema-like reclining seat, and lets the art do the moving? Awaiting this invention, as we must, I nevertheless ensured that my second day in Amsterdam took in the remaining cultural hot points, despite the considerable walking distance between them.

The Bedroom (1888)

Almond Blossom (1890)

First on the list was the all important Van Gogh museum, which delivered masterpieces aplenty in a purpose built, airy space which more than catered for the influx of visitors present. Oh what a contrast to the last time I saw some of these works, at the Royal Academy’s Van Gogh exhibition, when all semblance of civility was lost somewhere around the Dutch peasant paintings, leading to all out war between Royal Academy Friends and foes alike as we scrambled to peak a view at Van Gogh’s chair or his whimsical poplars, not to mention get within an inch of that all important blood stained last letter to Theo. No, no, here one could more or less flit between paintings without too much fuss, leaving each room fully satisfied by the breadth of work on show, the logical chronological ordering of the works, and the provision of one masterpiece after another: The Potato Eaters, the Yellow House, Van Gogh’s bedroom, Gauguin’s chair, the Sunflowers and so on. I also left a little more informed about his technique. He had not adopted this often clumsy, thickly layered style of painting because of any lack of skill. Rather, he had been heavily influenced by the trends of Paris at that time, where pointillism had taken over from Impressionism, and figurative works were becoming more and more symbolic and abstracted. He was also influenced by Japanese art, with its flat, two dimensional representation and black outlines. By contrast, his first efforts – in which he concentrated on peasant portraits and bucolic landscapes – on the back of an absence of any professional training whatsoever, were really quite impressive. It seems he really did have naturally inherent talent, and plenty of it too.

I was of course thrilled to see the original of The Potato Eaters, which inspired me to paint my own family portrait last year. I was however rather frustrated that the work was displayed behind highly reflective glass which did no service to its dark, muddy shades, which were almost indistinguishable behind the glossy glare. None of the works were in fact that well lit, and the museum ought to take a leaf out of the Musee d’Orsay’s book in Paris, where new lighting set against dark blue walls makes the Van Gogh works glow beautifully.

Wheatfield with Crows (1890)

From one, forever active, always creative but troubled mind, to the youthful introspection of a girl in times of trouble – Anne Frank, whose house, always the site of long spiralling queues, we left until late to avoid the tourist crush. This we did with relative success, waiting only around 5 minutes to enter. Once inside, the excellent fusion of multimedia presentation with the old house still intact made for an effortless narrative, but did rather clog up the small space with tourists, most of whom would stay frozen to the spot until they had heard every word of the various video clips on show. This was particularly prevalent in the small annex itself, where Anne Frank, her family and four friends of the family, we’re hidden away for two years during the Nazi occupation of Holland. There, in tiny rooms and even tinier, almost vertical staircases, the tourist cram was uncomfortable, but served to emphasise how horrifically claustrophobic it must have been for the 8 persecuted Jews hidden away in these rooms without daylight and being unable to make any noise. Being able to walk through these rooms, still dressed in their original decor, Anne’s pictures of hollywood icons and even the British Queen and her sister pasted onto the walls, made for an intense and emotional experience, far more so than in a museum full of facts and figures.

Bookcase hiding the entrance to the Frank annex

So two of Amsterdam’s great minds have been explored and all that remains is a hot bath to sooth my now fizzing feet, plenty of tea and then dinner. Last night’s dinner, at a romantic art nouveau inspired canal-side brasserie, De Belhamel, was not entirely successful. We were rather pleased, at first, to have been seated up on the mezzanine, with a commanding view over the restaurant and the canal beyond. This advantage soon turned sour when, somewhat topped up with wine, I waved my arm enthusiastically, only to then knock my full wine glass off the edge of the balcony, whereupon it bounced off one railing before shattering, ceremoniously, across the entire ground floor of the restaurant, spraying several tables with its contents. After the crash came the complete shocked silence of the whole restaurant, and suddenly all eyes were on our little table up on the mezzanine. Oh the embarrassment. Oh the mortification. Oh the utmost humiliation. Needless to say, I insouciantly helped myself to more wine before taking a measured but fast retreat from the restaurant. Possibly won’t be returning there in a while.

Sunday Supplement: The Sweet Potato Eaters

I have already referred enthusiastically, earlier in the week, to the socially insightful early masterpiece of Van Gogh – his dowdy, brown-shaded gathering of peasants, The Potato Eaters. So different from his later works, where all the melancholy and subdued tones of his earlier Dutch-based paintings seem to have been discarded, to be replaced with vivid multicoloured rainbow spectrums, flowers, landscapes and characterful people, despite the continuing melancholia escalating in his soul. Yet this painting is no less a masterpiece for its lack of colour, bandaged ears and sunflowers. True, this work would not sit so well on a chocolate box or mouse pad, but it is nevertheless a truly stunning painting to behold, and a truly genuine, authentic insight into the simple life of peasants.

Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters (1885, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

Many things strike me about the work, and I can’t wait to see the original (hopefully) when I head to Amsterdam this week. I love the strong contrast between light and shade, the concentration of light in the centre of the table, drawing the viewer into this cosy, intimate scene. I like the faces of the peasants – coarse, worn down, but somehow contented with their humble dinner. And I love the surroundings, dark, dingy, but containing small trinkets demonstrative of the familial setting of the painting. All things combined, before even seeing the original, I was inspired to undertake a parody of the work back in 2010. Taking Van Gogh’s composition, I translated the scene into one of my family. In the painting is a self-portrait (far left) along with portraits of my mother, partner, sister and nephew. Instead of potatoes, we enjoy sweet potatoes, perhaps reminiscent of the better, sweeter life that we are lucky enough to have enjoyed compared to the peasants in Van Gogh’s original.

The Sweet Potato Eaters (after Van Gogh) (oil on canvas, 2010 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

In my painting, the room remains basically the same as Van Gogh’s, but I include a number of features pertaining to my family home – the retro 60s lamp which hangs in my parents dining room, the cuckoo clock which hangs in mine. On the wall is one of my paintings (Lighthouse II: Starry Night) the title of which also refers to a Van Gogh work. In the back room, my family piano features, while on the table, Van Gogh’s simple tea cups are replaced with the Arabia mugs which both my mother and I have a huge collection of – featuring illustrations of Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories. On the shelves, onions, garlic and chorizo represent our affinity, as a family, with Spain, while the shiny coffee maker represents my partner’s family living in Italy.

I took the unusual move, because of the size and scale of the project, of photographing my work as it progressed. I therefore have a series of 45 photos which show how I created the work, step by step. Hopefully this will feature (if I’ve got my technology right) as a slideshow below. I think it adds to the effect to speed up the slide show a bit by clicking on the right arrow – that way you really see the progress of the painting in fastfoward mode.

Enjoy the work, enjoy your Sunday and see you in… Amsterdam!!!

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