Monday, May 17, 2010

Vincent 2

In Les Baux de Provence, there is a place called La Cathédrale d'Images, an underground stone quarry.  For 31 years, it has been used to project audiovisual masterpieces.  In 2008, I went to see Van Gogh.  I brought home a program.
The cover of the program is made up of small pieces of his paintings put together.

Projected on the huge walls of this quarry were Vincent's paintings from his time in Provence and Auvers-sur-Oise, the period considered to be his best.
This visual feast was set to music.
I bought the CD and I listen to it often while working at my desk.  I can close my eyes and see the swirls and bright colors projected on the stones.  It was a near religious experience.
The Van Gogh spectacle was put together by Régis Prévot, an author and film maker.
The Cathédrale d'Images website:

I've just read about a theory put forth by two German art historians, Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans.  They claim that Gauguin cut off Vincent's ear with a sword.  Gauguin was supposedly an excellent swordsman and the two argued on December 23, 1888, with Gauguin threatening to leave the yellow house.  This made Vincent very unhappy, his dream of establishing an artists' colony in Provence dying.  The historians claim that Vincent was "infatuated" with Gauguin.  Supposedly Gauguin drew his sword, cut off Vincent's ear, Vincent took it to a nearby brothel to give to a prostitute/friend, Vincent returned to the yellow house, Gauguin threw his sword in the Rhône and then spent the night at a hotel.  The art historians say that Vincent and Gauguin made a secret pact not to tell anyone what really happened so that Gauguin would not get into trouble.  Vincent's brother, Théo, was Gauguin's art dealer, to further complicate the relationship.  From all that has been written, by both Vincent and Gauguin in their letters, as well as by historians, theirs was a volatile relationship.  Who really cut off that ear?

Vincent painted The Potato Eaters in 1885 while living in the Netherlands.  He wanted to paint peasants eating with the same hands they used to work the land.
Quite different from the sunflowers and his bedroom in Arles.
In honor of this painting, though, I will post my favorite potato recipe.

Gratin Dauphinois

2 1/2 lbs. potatoes (russets work well)
1 c. milk, whole or 2%
1 c. half and half
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Ground nutmeg, to taste
1 clove garlic, sliced lengthwise
3 Tbsp. finely chopped chives (optional)
1/4 c. heavy cream
5 oz. grated Emmental or Gruyère cheese

Peel potatoes.  Slice thinly and evenly, about 1/8 inch thickness.
Combine potatoes, milk, half and half, salt and nutmeg in saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and simmer 8 minutes, stirring and scraping the pot to prevent potatoes from sticking and milk from scorching.  Milk will gradually thicken.
Preheat oven to 425F.  Rub bottom and sides of baking dish with cut sides of garlic.
Transfer half of the potatoes into the baking dish, sprinkle with chives, if using, sprinkle with half the cheese, and drizzle with half the cream.  Add the rest of the potatoes, pour cooking milk over them, drizzle with the remaining cream and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake 35-40 minutes, until bubbly on the edges and browned on top.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit, Vincent and the Potato Eaters!

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