November 30th – the end of the month and the end of many hours of work, sittings, and polishing my little Italian!
This year I chose not to make a case study of a person I know but of one I have only seen in town: a friendly local chef working a door down the gallery. His name is not Mr. Blok, neither his first name is Jozef. Yet, you must wonder why I’ve called this piece “Another Mr. Blok,” and the answer to this question is the story behind this painting.
It was about 4 years ago when I became obsessed with the works of Van Gogh, one of my favorite painters. I remembered I used to know only his later work: the starry night, wheat fields, and sunflowers (dead and alive), and his self portraits – the famous Van Gogh’s ear.
Though Van Gogh’s work wasn’t always colorful. In fact, his early work was gloomy, earthy toned, and on the dark side. The first transitional – from dark to color- work, is a portrait not many of us know, yet of great significant: Mr. Blok. It is a portrait of a black bearded street book seller Van Gogh knew in The Hague.
Jozef Blok *drawing *5-11-1882 *38.4 x 26.2 cm
It was 3 years ago when I discovered my own Mr. Blok here in Ascona: a bearded local chef who used to pass by my window on his way to work. I always wanted to ask him to sit for me but never really had the “nerve”to ask a stranger for such a strange request. This year I finally did. I was lucky he didn’t find it unusual to have an artist beg to paint a portrait of his. He agreed.
“Another Mr. Blok” isn’t a study of my subject or sitter, but of Van Gogh’s philosophy. In his eyes, everyone – the postman, the bookseller, the doctor, the prostitute – were of equal value and importance. With this study, I too stand by this belief. Not matter where one comes from, what title one holds, what one does…there is always a special story behind a face.
The happy ending.