Playing Favorites

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

'Van Gogh is awesome!" exclaimed my seven-year-old son recently. "He is my favorite artist, and 'Starry Night' is my favorite painting."

I wondered, of all the famous artists Alex is learning about, why Vincent van Gogh? And why his painting of a turbulent night sky?

And why does one particular artist speak to any of us? In Alex's case, I suspect the swirls of vibrant color caught his eye. And since he was an infant, I have often whisked him outdoors to look at a full moon or bright stars. So action in the sky always gets a "wow" out of him.

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If his enthusiasm for Van Gogh keeps up, we may have to make the pilgrimage down to Washington this fall for the just-announced blockbuster exhibition on the celebrated Post-Impressionist artist.

Remember the crowds that swarmed Czanne in Philadelphia? Or how Atlanta has rallied around Picasso at the High Museum of Art? Same deal. The Van Gogh exhibit doesn't even open at the National Gallery of Art until Oct. 4, but it's already getting plenty of buzz.

"Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces From the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam" is the largest survey of the artist's career outside of the Netherlands in more than 25 years. The works are from Vincent's treasured collection kept by his brother, Theo. And the show is made possible by good relations between the the National Gallery and the Van Gogh Museum, which is closing for a year of renovations.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will also host the Van Gogh works (Jan. 17-April 4, 1999) after the National Gallery exhibit closes on Jan. 3, 1999.

Among the 70 canvases headed for the US are "Potato Eaters" (1885), "The Bedroom" (1888), and "Self-Portrait as an Artist" (1888) as well as several works never before shown in the States.

Mark your calendars. And if you can't make it to Washington or L.A., there's always the illustrated catalog or, eventually, images on the National Gallery's Web site (www.nga.gov). We'll keep you posted on details.

Now let's return to favorite artists. Even in this day of fast-moving images, I like to think we can all still delight in a good old-fashioned work of art.

I've always been drawn to Matisse for his joyful colors and playful patterns, Mary Cassatt for her tender portraits of mothers and children, and Andrew Wyeth for his honest images of Maine.

What about you? Please tell us who your favorite artist is and why. If there's a particular artwork you're fond of, tell us that too. And don't overlook the budding art lovers in your household. You might be surprised what they come up with.

We'll publish your responses in a future section. Send them to Arts & Leisure editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail wolcott@csmonitor.com

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