By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Common knowledge regarding Vincent van Gogh has most people recalling the tidbits they learned about the renowned painter when they were children–namely, that he created the well-known painting entitled Starry Night and that he famously lopped off a piece of his own ear.

But van Gogh’s influence and stunning talent created a far reaching legacy that transcends our often narrow perception of the artist.

Thankfully, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s current exhibit, Van Gogh Up Close, invites the viewer to get up close and personal with the painter, treating attendees to the brilliance of this master of color and intensity. And, lucky me, fellow blogger, Chrysa Smith and I spent a delightful Saturday getting to know Vincent a little better.

The show centers on the last four years of van Gogh’s life, the period from 1886 to 1890, when, while living in France, the artist experimented with color and perspective, often focusing intently on  the details of objects found in nature. His work during this time broke with many of the rules of traditional painting, opening the door for modern artists to explore their art.

A sensitive individual, van Gogh’s emotional state often influenced his work, a sensibility that is almost palpable when viewing pieces composed during times of mental stress. Yet even when suffering, the painter’s creations remain vibrant and always engaging, forging a touching connection across time.

It’s a fascinating experience on multiple levels, especially given the excellent narration of the show that accompanies the tour.

After completing the tour (and getting through the gift shop without purchasing anything–no easy feat given the gorgeous merchandise), Chrysa and I lunched at the museum’s lovely restaurant, Granite Hill, a sophisticated, yet welcoming eatery offering an array of luncheon options along with a full bar. Reasonably priced, it was also wonderful, given the rainy weather, to be able to remain on site for a satisfying meal. (The service was excellent as well.)

For an enriching cultural experience (and a chance to soak up the architectural wonder of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) be sure to see Van Gogh Up Close running through May 6th. For ticket information, visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art.