My Van Gogh with Bernard Picon

Throughout the year, Bice Curiger invites prominent figures from the world of the arts to talk about an aspect of the life and work of Vincent van Gogh that holds particular meaning for them.

Van Gogh and Cézanne : landscape concepts and life stories

The intimate injunction to talk about ‘my Van Gogh’ rather than Van Gogh prompts me to review some of the feelings and personal thoughts inspired by 40 years of sociology and by walks through the Aix and Arles countryside ‘in the footsteps’ of Cézanne and Van Gogh. 

Is the difference in the way in which these two painters treat the light of the South connected to the difference – pronounced, to say the least – in their respective degree of immersion in the local region and community? Why are Aix and its environs often described by the media as ‘Cézannian sites’, whereas the surroundings of Arles are never branded as ‘Van Gogh-ian’?
From rejection to adulation. Looking at different studies, we find that the social mechanisms of devaluation–revaluation of an artist or a territory depend on cultural and symbolic arguments that are practically identical.

Bernard Picon is a sociologist and Emeritus Research Director at the CNRS. He lives in Arles, where he has established an interdisciplinary research team studying environmental issues from the point of view of human-nature interactions. In 2008 he published L’espace et le temps en Camargue.

Photo credit:
Vincent van Gogh, The Harvest, June 1888
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)