It was our first trip to New York and we lined up for the Museum of Modern Art. We wanted to see so much art but the main reason for the visit was to see Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night . We headed to the gallery but Starry Night was not there. When we checked, the painting was on loan to another museum. I was so disappointed. Everything we saw after that point was lost on me.
My interest in this painting was partly due to the song Vincent by Don McLean, written in 1971.
You can hear the song and see some of Van Gogh's work here.
Also, I knew the story of van Gogh from my high school history class and was familiar with much of his work. But my interest went beyond books and music. The parish priest, Father Adrian Kimenai, of my home parish of Mary Queen of the World, in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, was from the Netherlands originally
and was a great nephew of van Gogh.
I met Father Adrian when I needed a reference from my parish priest as I applied for teaching jobs with the Catholic school boards in Newfoundland. He was not in the parish very long at that point, so we did not know each other beyond a nodding acquaintance. We had a long conversation during which he asked me about myself and I eventually wrote a reference which he signed. During that conversation he asked me what I knew of van Gogh. That was when he told me about his connection to the artist, though I cannot remember the exact genealogy he explained at that time.
Mary Queen of the World Church was on the main floor of a building with the school upstairs. Father Adrian was instrumental in having a new church built, separate from the school. Then a most interesting thing happened, the great nephew of van Gogh, saw to the commissioning of Newfoundland artist Gerald Squires to do the art work for the new church.
The story of the church and the art is here. You can see the Last Supper done by Squires in the article.
The work is incredible, depicting the stations of the cross, the last supper and the resurrection, in a Newfoundland setting. While costly at the time, the work is worth millions of dollars today. This art attracts people every year to see the incredible work done by Gerald Squires.
An interview with Gerald Squires is here. This interview is long but fascinating. Watch the first few minutes to see some of the stations of the cross.
Meanwhile, in 2009, when we visited Amsterdam and planned to visit the Rijksmuseum,
we were elated to see Starry Night on loan from the Museum of Modern Art. A dream came true!
Father Adrian Kimenai died in the Netherlands in 2014. Gerald Squires died last year in Newfoundland. The priest was the visionary, the artist was the master who gave it form. Incredible art is the legacy.