Explore Vincent Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on March 30th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Explore Vincent is a wonderful app for iPad exploring the life and times of Vincent van Gogh, the brilliant yet troubled artist from childhood through adulthood, ending with his death in 1890.

This app is a true multi media delight as many mediums are explored within this app for iPad.

A video section is included that does a wonderful job of introducing Van Gogh as a child to viewers, expressing the emotions Van Gogh presumably felt from boyhood through adulthood. These videos are not straight narratives but a montage of styles including the use of split-screens and a graphic use of color, lines of text music and other elements working together as much as a graphic designer’s work of art and that of the video director.

I appreciate the casting of Van Gogh himself, a red haired young man in his twenties, wonderful as the casual Van Gogh fan may have only a recollection of him as an older man found among self-portraits of his own work.

These wonderful videos really tell a tale of this man’s life and interpersonal relationships with his family as well as ill-fated attempts at relationships with women.

These scenes are not without drama, which I find intriguing and enjoy, yet at times come across as heavy-handed. For example, at the beginning of the first clip, Van Gogh tries to defend birds' eggs from bullies, expressing his great love of nature and animals. It has a tone, however, that makes these clips seem like prequels to Norman Bates or Dexter Morgan’s life as a child, as the musical tone and voice-over elements make me fear for the animals Van Gogh is actually trying to protect or love - possibly foreshadowing his unstableness nicely, even if at times consisting of a misplaced intensity.

Historical details are found throughout these videos as well, with a favorite moment of mine being the time period of Van Gogh away at school during a cholera outbreak because here, the flair for the dramatic works to great effect.

Other areas of this app are equally abundant, as “Van Gogh’s TIME” gives more historical details of the time periods as one explores the included time line, especially about events in art history - both in general for this time period as well as pertaining directly to Van Gogh and his family.

A nice use of tabs that one can tap to open is incorporated in order to read the included text which, combined with photographs or places or objects as well as small representations of artwork found throughout, gives readers a real sense of visiting a Van Gogh museum themselves.

Along this time line as Van Gogh begins to produce his first pieces of art, a new section is available to explore, Van Gogh’s WORK, focusing on the art created during different time periods of Van Gogh’s Life. I especially appreciate how this app leads readers through important time periods for Van Gogh, especially the great change in use of color from a darker, more muted palette to the bright, bold colors Van Gogh may be best known for when exploring French Impressionism. This section nicely incorporates a map showing where art in question was produced as well as a chance to scroll though Van Gogh’s original letters, drawings and paintings.

The navigation of Exploring Vincent can be tricky when first experiencing this app. It is helpful that readers are brought to the video first within each time period explored, then have a chance to move to Van Gogh’s TIME by scrolling up or scrolling down to ponder Van Gogh’s WORK. One can also be brought to these sections with a tap of the finger found on a menu page after the video clip has been viewed. After spending time with this app, the navigating becomes easier, and I like the inclusion of a guide explaining how to play this app as well as the menu of all included application pages, which simplifies this app.

Games are also included, but maintaining the style of this app, these games are actually quite cerebral as one may fill in Van Gogh’s family tree, included text for hints on placement and choosing correct photographic images of city life found in 1866, with pitfalls including objects such as cars which came later than the time period in question. One can also match paintings with the scenery as seen today or the sketches found within Van Gogh’s letters to the letter itself, using the letter’s context as clues or an exercise in art history as one sorts images into the different styles of painting of the Brabant and French Period as well as sources of inspiration - my favorite game included.

These games, nicely interactive and also reminding me of an installation at a more hands-on museum can be found throughout this app but also contained together at the end of this app - a very nice touch.

I do wish, however, that it were easier to re-watch these videos - something I would love to see in a future update. I was also mildly disappointed that ill health, anxiety and mental illness of Van Gogh were not touched upon this app more, as I would have liked to see some of the possible causes of his darkness explored here as well - from possible lead poisoning, epilepsy or bipolar disorder which may have been aggravated by his fondness for absinthe, which was mentioned within this application.

Even with these notes, Exploring Vincent is a marvelous application that should be part of any library of applications for middle school and high schoolers.

I am very happy to announce that Friday, March 30th, Exploring Vincent Van Gogh Hd will be free for the day to celebrate Van Gogh’s birthday and will be half price that Saturday and Sunday as well - a wonderful gift to the public as this app is of the highest production value possible and is simply terrific!

iPad Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Explore Vincent van Gogh HD screenshot 1 Explore Vincent van Gogh HD screenshot 2 Explore Vincent van Gogh HD screenshot 3 Explore Vincent van Gogh HD screenshot 4 Explore Vincent van Gogh HD screenshot 5
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