Andrew James McKay
For me Kirk Douglas’ portrayal of Van Gogh in the 1956, Lust for Life is far superior to the overwrought agonizing of Roth’s in Vincent and Theo, and Dafoe’s slight mystification of the artist for the more recent At Eternity’s Gate. I liked the empathy and probably most of all the earnestness of Douglas’ effort, and after reviewing the film I took another look at Van Gogh’s paintings. There’s a lot to like of course but for whatever reason I kept going back to the painting of his boots. At the top of the landing in the first studio I kept in Vancouver I had two pair myself. The damp had corroded the eyelets of one pair a bright emerald which made those boots unsuitable to paint because the colour would be overpowering even in that small amount. I chose the other and painted them. I think it’s a workable picture, probably because it retains the slight absurdity of Van Gogh’s original: spending time depicting the banality of footwear when there are so many more ‘exciting’ things to paint.
– Andrew James McKay