Drawing - Blog Post
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 in Groot Zundert, Holland and killed himself 37 years later in 1890 Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Before becoming a painter, van Gogh was a bookstore clerk, an art salesman, and a preacher (likely due to his having been a preacher’s son). After having been released from his various jobs due to his strong personality, van Gogh truly dedicated himself to art by studying it in Belgium. He struggled with his temper and epilepsy throughout his life which eventually evolved into mental illness and required that he attend an asylum to receive treatment. In fact, van Gogh is most known to the general public for his having tried to hurt fellow artist Gaugin with a razor which ultimately resulted in his cutting off his own ear lobe.
Van Gogh was known for his colorful, powerful, and emotive brush strokes. Many believe the passionate style of painting was a way for him to channel his angst. Van Gogh was famous for many things, but two identifying components of many of his pieces were his use of beautiful ochers, evident in his signature sunflowers, and small impressionistic brushstrokes, almost pointillism inspired. One of van Gogh’s most famous paintings is Starry Night which is exemplary of his impressionistic brushstrokes. Some claim that the gleams of light that swirl across the painting were actually seen by van Gogh due to his seeing “halos” around any light source due to his enlarged retinas. While van Gogh has become a modern-day icon, he only sold one painting during his lifetime. This is incredible given his impact on the Impressionistic era.
The reason I chose van Gogh is because of his use of rich yellows, my favorite color, as well as his beautiful brushstrokes. I love Impressionism in particular because the drawings and paintings seem to have incredible movement. I find that van Gogh’s still lifes and landscapes especially capture the motion as the colors and short strokes enable the nature to become alive and swirl across the page. In particular, I like van Gogh’s still lifes and landscapes. His ability to give energy to inanimate but still living objects is extraordinary. Impressionism was such a wonderful era as it broke away from drawing things as they are and towards drawing things as they felt. Drawings with free strokes make for a more dynamic experience. This is something I try to incorporate into my own drawings.
(1) Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles – Letter Sketch – 1888
Van Gogh wrote numerous letters to family, friends and fellow artists and often included drawings in his letters to depict certain scenes he had described. Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles (1888) is a sketch he included in one of his letters. I chose this piece for three reasons. First, I like that it was drawn quickly as it shows the bare bones of van Gogh’s simple, short brushstroke style. Second, I like that there is no nature depicted and that even though none of these items are “living” van Gogh coveys the energy and dynamism through his strokes that vary in techniques (various strengths of his pen strokes), pattern, and direction. Third, I like that the scene depicts his room. While he lives very simply, one can tell that he seeks to find pattern and movement even in basic, everyday objects.
(2) Street in Saintes-Maries – 1888
(3) Starry Night - 1889
While van Gogh’s drawings demonstrate his detailed precision in his work, his pieces truly only come to life in his paintings given the dynamic use of color. “Starry Night” (1889) is one of van Gogh’s most famous pieces due to not only his impressionistic brushstrokes, but his incredible use of color. The contrast of the blues and yellows make the piece truly captivating and vivacious. Personally, I like how van Gogh includes a darker foreground through the dark green tree as it allows the rest of the painting in contrast to really brighten up. Lastly, one can see how other artists, like Seurat, inspired his work given the small, detailed strokes.