A Newborn Baby: The Infinite in its Eyes

Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Marcelle Roulin, 1888. Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Marcelle Roulin, 1888. Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam


Every time I enter Van Gogh: Repetitions, I have to stop and explore the portraits of Marcelle Roulin on view. Maybe it’s because I have a baby at home. Maybe it’s because I’m in awe of how Marcelle Roulin tolerates the gold bracelet on her wrist and the ring on her tiny finger (I know my daughter wouldn’t). I might just want to squeeze those chubby cheeks. In any case, I’m fascinated by van Gogh’s  portraits of a baby who is so new to life.

Van Gogh had a enduring affection for children. When he met Marcelle’s mother, Augustine Roulin, she was pregnant. She gave birth to Marcelle on July 31, 1888. Soon after van Gogh wrote  a letter to his brother Theo saying, a baby “has the infinite in its eyes;” in the same letter he shared his intention to paint Marcelle. The artist created 3 individual portraits of Marcelle and two paintings of the baby in her mother’s arms.

The artist wasn’t the only one smitten with baby Marcelle. The following May, Marcelle’s father, Joseph Roulin wrote a letter to van Gogh saying, “Beautiful Marcelle is still doing well, she has two teeth, she is an extraordinary little one, very well-behaved, she has everything in her favour, only when I arrived she didn’t want to see me. It was only when I left that she really looked at me and pulled my beard a little.”

Art and Wellness: Creative Aging

This video features the ongoing collaboration between The Phillips Collection and Iona Senior Services. The program encourages older adults (many of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s or related dementia), along with their families and caregivers, to make connections and access personal experiences and long-term memories through gallery conversations and hands-on art therapy.

In November, the Phillips opened  Art and Wellness: Creative Aging for Arts & Health Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The exhibition features over 80 artworks created as a part of the program.

Our colleagues at Iona created this video to celebrate the opening reception for the exhibition, which brought over 100 participants to the museum, including many artists and their families. One family expressed, “Thank you for an amazing exhibit. We appreciate your grace and kindness. You inspire us.” Another attendee said, “Great show! Looks like the Iona participants were having fun, as well as having memories and thinking about elements of some works of art.”

If you’re interested in more information about the artworks in the video or the Art and Wellness program, please contact education@phillipscollection.org.

Only in Paris—Veilhan at Beaugrenelle

I’m jealous. One of my family members sent me a photograph of a newly opened local shopping mall and I was amazed to see installed in the central atrium a mobile by Xavier Veilhan. You may remember Veilhan’s The Bear and his exhibition at the Phillips last fall. In fact, I had originally experienced the same sculpture when it was on view at the Grand Palais’s exhibition, Dynamo. Tell me, is it only in Paris that you can go from updating your wardrobe to seeing amazing art in the same place?

Xavier Veilhan's mobile installed at Beaugrenelle, Paris. Photo: Emmanuele Bondeville Barbin.

Xavier Veilhan’s mobile installed at Beaugrenelle, Paris. Photo: Emmanuele Barbin-Bondeville.