‘The loveliest landscape is a woman.’


"AMSTERDAM — So read the caption beneath Kees van Dongen’s Woman with Shawl at
Van Gogh’s Park View and Other Works exhibit currently showing at the Van Gogh
Museum in Amsterdam, a magnificently simple line that I immediately filed away
with other luscious gems of sublime simplicity that I wish I had written.
Another is Michael Stipe’s lyric, “I look at her and I see the beauty of the
light of music.” There’s a very tangible light that illuminates music; if it’s a
beautiful light, that’s all the better. And if that musical light emanates from
the lovely landscape of a woman, then you’ve experienced a rare trifecta that
simply can’t be outdone.

But the sentiments of Van Dongen (or Stipe)
didn’t seem to fit with this exhibit, one that aimed to put Van Gogh in context
with his immediate predecessors, contemporaries and successors. Van Gogh, it
seems, rarely painted portraits of women. And of the few times he did, more
often than not he chose to obscure their femininity and mask entirely their
sexuality. This may have everything –or absolutely nothing– to do with his
well-known rejections, now the stuff of legend. But it did set the tone for my
late morning and early afternoon meandering, which was cut in two by the
museum’s monthly fire drill."

‘The loveliest landscape is a woman.’

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