Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sara Adam: Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh
Painting, Oil on Canvas
Paris: Winter, 1887/88

I have always been drawn to the works of Vincent Van Gogh because of the intensity of expression in all of his work. His paintings have a sense of movement that keeps your eyes moving and conveys energy even if none of the objects in the composition are animate. As a lover of bright colors, I love the colors that Van Gogh chooses for his paintings especially in his paintings of people.

Van Gogh was born in 1853 in the Netherlands, the son of a minister in the Dutch reformed church. He began drawing in school but never had the opportunity to explore other mediums in his childhood. In 1868, Van Gogh's uncle helped him get a position with an art dealer where he was successful. After experiencing his first heart break after a failed romantic relationship, he became increasingly dissatisfied with his work and the commodification of art. After this incident, he also grew increasingly religious. In 1877 he began theological studies in Amsterdam. In 1879, Van Gogh went to a coal-mining town to work as a missionary and live among the people. He chose a life of poverty, much to the disapproval of the local clergy and his parents. This experience and interest in the worker are demonstrated later in the subjects of his paintings- be it work boots or farmers working in their fields.

A Pair of Boots
oil on canvas

In 1879 Van Gogh decided to become an artist, though he had very little technical 
knowledge. He registered at Acadmie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1880. He began painting for the first time under the tutelage of landscape painter, Anton Mauve. After a disagreement with his father over his intended marriage, Van Gogh walked away from the faith that had previously been so important to him. Van Gogh then settled at The Hague, living with a prostitute, Clausina "Sien" Hoornik. After a year of that arrangement, he left to stay again with his parents in Nunen. In the 2 years he spent there, he completed 200 oil paintings. At this point in his career, his color palate consisted of dark earth tones. These were not of the style of the newly popular impressionist works that had brighter colors. He became a student of color theory and his later works exhibit the bright colors that he is known for. Throughout this time, he struggled with mental health issues. In the last years of his life, he wavered between extreme despair and extreme bouts of creative energy. He was sent to an asylum in Saint Remy and seemed to improve under the treatment there. However, only two months after his release in 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He survived after the shot for 29 hours but the wound became infected and he died having sold only one painting.

Drawing, Pencil, black lithographic crayon, pen and brush in brown (originally black) ink, scratched on watercolour paper
The Hague: December - January , 1882 - 83

The drawing above demonstrates the expression in lines that Van Gogh used in his work. Many of his pieces abstract every day objects, like the sky or almost stretch the objects making the viewer feel that he or she is looking at an object through a glass. The almost messiness of the lines creates motion and energy instead of a static, standstill composition. 

Vincent van Gogh
Drawing, Pencil, pen, brown ink

This drawing shows the abstraction of nature that he is so famous for in the painting "Starry Night". The lines are imaginative and emotive, creating an organic sense of movement that I as the viewer connect with. 

Tilborgh, Louis Van., and Marije Vellekoop. Vincent Van Gogh: Paintings. London: Lund Humphries, 1999. Print.
Druick, Douglas W., Peter Zegers, Britt Salvesen, Kristin Hoermann. Lister, and Mary C. Weaver. Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2001. Print.

Keller, Horst. Vincent Van Gogh; the Final Years. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1969. Print.
"Vincent Van Gogh: Biography." Vincent Van Gogh Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2012. <>.


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