Sunday, October 5, 2014

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

Vincent van Gogh was a Post-Impressionist painter of Dutch origin whose work was famed for his bold, dramatic brush strokes which expressed emotion and added a feeling of movement and vivid dynamism. It´s thought that he often used paint straight from the tube (impasto) and in the 70 days leading up to his death, he averaged one painting per day. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he ended his life with a bullet to his chest. 

Van Gogh began to draw as a child, and he continued to draw throughout the years that led up to his decision to become an artist. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches, and prints. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes, portraits as well as paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.

Bedroom in Arles (1888) was part of a decorating scheme for van Gogh’s new house in Arles. Most apparent in this work are the bright patches of contrasting color, the thickly applied paint, and the peculiar perspective. The rear wall appears strangely angled and the hanging frames are skewed downward toward the viewer. This is not a mistake — Van Gogh was rebelling against impressionism, in an attempt to break from from the confines of a realistic perspective. The simple interior and bright colors were meant to convey notions of rest and sleep, both literally and figuratively.

Starry Night (1889) is perhaps one of his most famous and yet most elusive works. Van Gogh painted this piece inside the confines of the mental asylum which he voluntarily admitted himself into. Interestingly enough, he painted this piece from his memory and it was supposed to have been based on a night sky he had seen earlier in the city of Provence. His brush strokes seem heavy and thick and have this insistent, hectic rhythm to it. As a result, this painting has an illusion of constantly being in motion.

Postimpressionism was a reaction against impressionism, which ascribed to the belief that art should accurately reflect reality with natural color and lighting. Postimpressionists believed that art is not meant to imitate form, but to create form. This means that artists of this period took a subjective view of the visual world and painted their world according to their own artistic perceptions. As Van Gogh himself said, "We may succeed in creating a more exciting and comforting nature than we can discern with a single glimpse of reality." This is why postimpressionist artists have no fixed style -- their works reflected their own unique personalities and perceptions. In Van Gogh's case, his works seemed to reflect a great emotional intensity, like that seen in Starry Night.

Wheatfield with Crows (1890) is one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings and probably the one most subject to speculation. Many have claimed it was his last work, seeing the dramatic, cloudy sky filled with crows and the cut-off path as obvious portents of his coming end. However, since no letters are known from the period immediately preceding his death, we can only guess what his final work might really have been. 

Vincent was quite depressed during the last weeks of his life. He worried about his brother's financial situation and his own future. He was afraid of suffering another bout of illness, and despite some recognition, felt he had failed as an artist. On July 27, at age 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest (although no gun was ever found) and died two days later.

Eiss, H. E.. Christ of the coal yards : A critical biography of vincent van gogh. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2010. Print.
Feilchenfeldt, Walter. Vincent van gogh : The years in france : Complete paintings 1886-1890 : Dealers, collectors, exhibitions, provenance. London: Philip Wilson, 2010. Print.
Veen, Wouter van der. Van Gogh, a literary mind: literature in the correspondence of Vincent van Gogh. Zwolle: Waanders; Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum, 2009. Print. 

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