Monday, 29 July 2013

Day 374: Van Gogh Yellow

I saw this poem in The New Yorker a few weeks ago and loved it. A meditation on Van Gogh's predominance of yellow in his paintings, in astonishing emotional and psychological detail:

*(Xanthopsia refers to the predominance of yellow in vision due to a yellowing of the optic media of the eye)

Xanthopsia - Maxine Kumin

It wasn’t absinthe or digitalis
in the Yellow House the two of them shared
that led him to layer the chrome coronas
or yellow the sheets in the bedroom in Arles
or tinge the towel negligently hung
on the hook by the door, or yellow the window,
be it distant view or curtain, yolk-lick
the paintings on the wall by the monkish bed.
No, it wasn’t sunstroke or the bright light
of southern France that yellowed the café terrace
at the Place du Forum, a pigment
intensified by the little white tables, the white stars
in a blue sky, the deep-saffron floor, it wasn’t
some chemical or physical insult that stained
the vase with twelve sunflowers a urinous
yellow, the water in the vase yellow,
also the table under the vase—such
a troubled life of yellow leading up
to Vincent’s hurled wineglass arousing
Gauguin’s rapier to sever his best friend’s left ear,
the story they made up that Vincent lopped it
off himself, wrapped it, ran down the road
to the nearby bordello, where his favorite whore
opened her present and fainted. He would
have bled to death if Gauguin hadn’t hauled him
to hospital next morning. Even in “Self-Portrait
with Bandaged Ear,” his necessary color washes in
despite greatcoat and pipe. Science has a word—
xanthopsia—for when objects appear
more yellow than they really are, but who’s
to say? As yellow as they are, they are.

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