Last year Bob Dylan painted. Much. And he completed a portfolio of illustrations – titled The Beaten Path– with the moments of a journey that took him through the most typical and diverse landscapes of the United States, from the Golden Gate Bridge in fog, to an Iowa farm with the water pump stopped and a rickety car in the foreground. All of them are exposed in Bob Dylan Editions until January 31, 2021 at the Halcyon Gallery in London. A bucolic street in the upscale Brooklyn Heights neighborhood in New York fall, a few gas stations scattered in the middle of nowhere, and even the Manhattan Bridge as seen from Downtown New York.
This image of the suspension bridge that crosses the East River from Washington Street is probably one of the city’s most Instagrammed Y also one of the most recurrent of the composer and Nobel Prize for Literature in his career as an artist. Dylan has painted this souvenir Tourist at night, at dusk and during the day, with a bright blue sky. And vibrant: he does not hide the brushstrokes under a mass of color, as he does not dilute the most surreal images of his songs. Leave the hits of blue and white in plain sight and they curl on top of each other, in a glaring (and devious) echo of the skies of one of the most famous cityscapes of all time.
It was painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889, from his room in the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence asylum (in the south of France), just before dawn. The Dutch artist ruffled the skies of The starry Night, from a circular movement of clear reference to what Hokusai had done five decades before in The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The emotional force of the Japanese artist’s color – he explained by letter to his brother Theo – lay in its incorrectness. And he acknowledged sharing that interest with Hokusai, although for Van Gogh reality was only an expressive resource and not the end in his pieces.
“The works evoke a sense of transience, a journey from the metropolis to the natural world through the road, the bridge, the railroad and the air. Together they present a panoramic view of the American landscape from Dylan’s particular perspective, ”said Bill Flanagan, curator of the first retrospective dedicated to the artist’s work, titled Retrospectrum, which was exhibited at the Modern Art Museum Shanghai and attracted nearly 100,000 visitors in three months. “His works of art invite you to participate in a trip through the cities, throughout the day and throughout the calendar. Dylan remains tirelessly creative, touring the sailor with his eyes wide open, ”added Flanagan.
Dylan, pintor amateur Since the mid-1960s, he has been attracted to Van Gogh since his earliest recordings. At that time, at the age of 25, he composed and performed in a hotel room in Denver (Colorado) the song he called Positively Van Gogh and that he never recorded in the studio. Had just posted Blonde on Blonde (1966) and this was lost in oblivion, but collected on a tape recorder. What has arrived that morning, with Robbie Robertson on guitar and journalist Robert Shelton (eventually biographer), is a barely improvised composition, despite the fact that the written and polished images overlap without really having a clear story. . It is a vision of what Van Gogh causes him and it was not an isolated experiment, because he was retouching the lyrics over and over again. He returned to the painter during the second part of the tour Rolling Thunder Rewe (1976), in which he interprets the theme Vincent van Gogh, a flatter song about the vital and artistic journey in six stanzas, which ended with an ironic and playful: “Now where did Vincent van Go?” (Where is Vincent van Gogh now?).
The starry Night He arrived at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1941 thanks to the collector Georgette van Stolk, who made an exchange with the art gallery: his Van Gogh for two works by Cézanne and one by Toulouse Lautrec. It was the first work of the sunflower painter to enter the New York institution, the result of the international interest that his work had acquired in the 1940s. It is not difficult to imagine Dylan – who also has some sunflowers among his works, but with an American background – in front of the painting, spending long periods of time and entertaining himself in those brushstrokes that swirl endlessly in the night sky. Those timid memories of the post-impressionist expressionism of the visions that the musician and poet sows in acrylic on paper are tempered with a pop attitude, much less daring than the lyrics of his songs and Vincent’s gaze.
And they are infinitely more expensive than the reward that the painter had. Van Gogh only sold two works in his lifetime, none were The starry Night, with which at the age of 36 – a few months before dying in circumstances that we know with more hypotheses than certainties – he had reached the summit in what would be one of the great landscaping milestones. Dylan and his dealers sell their vision of the Manhattan Suspension Bridge for almost 4,000 euros a print, from a “limited” edition of 295 reproductions.
The singer has become a Midas king, who also successfully launches songs, sculptures that are doors made with scrap metal, paint or drawings in Chinese ink. In the sample that can be seen these days, he presents the enlargement of the folder of drawings world Commentary, a series that he has produced since 2018 in pen, ink and paper, in which he illustrates with drawings the lyrics of some of his most famous songs written in his own handwriting.
These drawings are a new relationship between music, word and image, and between the artist and the market. The crazy prices at which these series prints are sold are justified by their gallery owners by the mania of their author to revise and modify, over and over again, the lyrics of the songs. “In world Commentary some songs have changed some lines, while others have completely rewritten verses “, they assure in their sales promotions. Thus, the sheet of The Times they Are A-Changin, with the handwritten lyrics of the song and the image of a hand writing with a pen in a notebook, it goes up to 5,625 euros, the same price as the illustration of Mr. Tambourine Man.
Such blatant business strategies would be inexcusable on any other artist, but on Dylan they pass without flaw. But in his long leap from music to art, from popular industry to luxury industry, Bob Dylan isn’t just not Van Gogh, he’s just Robert Zimmerman.