Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Good Samaritan

Title: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix)

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Medium: oil on canvas

Size: 60 x 73 cm

Date: 1890

Location: Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands.

As recorded in Luke 10:30-36, on one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, and questioned "Who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan: A man traveling to Jericho fell into the hands of robbers who stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and left him half dead. A priest going down the same road saw the man, but passed by on the other side. So too did a Levite. But when a Samaritan saw him, he took pity on him and bandaged his wounds. He took him to an inn to care for him. The next day he paid the innkeeper, and promised to reimburse him for any further expenses. “Which of these three,” Jesus queried, “do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

Van Gogh was staying in an institution for the mentally ill when he painted this work. It is a mirrored copy of Eugène Delacroix' Good Samaritan. Delacroix himself may have been inspired by the version by the 17th century Italian baroque artist Domenico Fetti. Van Gogh also made a copy of Delacroix' Pietà. In the background of the painting to the left two men can be seen who let the wounded man lay on the road when they passed him by. The priest and a man from the house of Levi were obviously they were not as righteous as their reputations would suggest.

Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist, a predecessor of Expressionism, whose revolutionary paintings had an enormous influence on 20th century art. Van Gogh was anxious and unsettled for most of his life. In 1880, he undertook formal art classes, and studied anatomy, still-life and landscape. He began to paint in 1882. During his last ten years he produced around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. Most of his best-known works were produced during his final two years, amid recurrent bouts of mental illness. On the evening of the 27th July 1890 van Gogh went at dusk into the fields and shot himself in the chest with a revolver. With all his strength he managed to drag himself back to the inn; here he died two days later in the arms of his brother, who had hurried to his side.

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