The Van Gogh Museum and the Van Gogh Letters sites are two spectacular responses to the use of the new media for the display of fine art. The Letters are astounding. They are capable of being displayed in the original handwriting, by line, and in several languages. Also, viewers can see the original illustrations that were included in the letters, and can click on it to see the history of the times, area, etc.
The Letters are manipulated to be displayed by period, place, date, with sketches. The following features exist for a comprehensive viewing experience:
Original Text. Displays the original text.
Line endings. Displays the original text with the original line endings. The lines are also numbered.
Facsimile. The facsimile view shows images of the letters. Clicking on a facsimile activates a zoom tool with which you can zoom in on the page. For more detailed information about the facsimile itself, click on the ‘physical description’ beneath the facsimile.
Translation. Here you find the English translation of the letter.
Notes. Displays the editorial annotations to the text. Individual notes can also be accessed by clicking the note number in the text or translation. If a note refers to a person, work of art, book or biblical passage, the reference is provided with a hyperlink. Clicking the hyperlink executes a search for that person, etc. In the case of a reference to an illustrated work of art, clicking the small sunflower icon displays the illustration.
Artworks. Displays thumbnails of all illustrated works of art mentioned in the annotations. Clicking the image will show a larger view of the work.
Recall previous letters. The numbers of recently viewed letters are shown next to the present letter number in the Letter title bar. Clicking a number returns you to that letter.
The museum site links both the Letters and the Google Art Project so as to make the experience immediate, convenient, and unique. Thus, it uses every advantage of art in the new media to make it more than the museum catalogue online. Indeed it is superior in many ways to a museum visit. It serves as a museum visit to see the original text in quiet contemplation; without crowds, noise, distraction.
The Van Gogh Letters are extraordinary in that they reveal that Vincent was an excellent writer, and allows us to see his own explanations of his paintings and use of color. One is his letter to his brother, Theo, from Arles dated September 9, 1888. In that letter, he gives a very coherent and articulate explanation of what he tried to do in the painting, Night Cafe.
“In my painting of the night cafe, I’ve tried to express the idea that the cafe is a place where you can ruin yourself, go mad, commit crimes. Anyway, I tried with contrasts of delicate pink and blood-red and wine-red. Soft Lous XV and Veronese green contrasting with the yellow greens and hard blue greens. All of that in an ambiance of a hellish furnace, in pale sulphur. To express something of the power of the dark corners of a grog-shop. And yet with the appearance of Japanese gaiety.”
The museum also has its own YouTube clip on the Google Art Project.
And, Vincent even has his own blog.