The history of western Arts cannot be complete without the discussion of Vincent Willem Van Gogh. He was a Dutch painter of post-impressionism (after the French art movement). He was among the most notable figures of the ninetieth century. His contribution in the field of arts is remarkable as he produced almost 2,100 art related works in a span of a decade with approximately 860 oil paintings. In the last two years of his life, he created most of his paintings, which is also an achievement. His artworks comprise of landscapes, big and small portraits, still life, and self-drawings (Van Noord et al.). He skillfully used colors and he considered them as a representation of different stages of his life. His paintings are renowned as refined pieces of art with a proper use of brushwork. Also, his artworks represented the modern concept of art during that time. Initially, he used watercolors in his paintings and then with the passage of time he moved to landscape painting and other forms of artworks. Van Gogh’s great source of inspiration was nature, he was truly fascinated with the beauty of farms and vegetation during his stay in Arles (South France). Nature was the source of inspiration for Van Gogh and he had a great sense of colors as well that is why his paintings and artworks are the reflections of his fascination.
Vincent Van Gogh’s artistic development
Gogh’s development is mostly associated with the time he spent residing in different places across Europe. He was very keen to adapt himself to local lifestyle and conditions. While living in various parts of Europe, he developed a sharp visual sense to undertake artworks. He evolved as a complete artist gradually because he was very well aware of his abilities. He shifted to different places to create a new visualization, thought process, and enhance artistic skills. In this regard, A well-known art historian Melissa McQuillan believed that Gogh’s skills reflected in his later part of artistic works that he developed as a result of different moves. He experienced the realities of life through living in different part of Europe, these realities clearly reflected in his paintings and different artwork.
Techniques Used in Paintings
Initially, he used lighter slabs of red, orange, green and blue colors with a broken brush as a mark of impressionists. Gogh also tried to adopt a pointillist technique which belonged to neo-impressionists, he also drew opposite dots of pure color which were embedded into the resultant colors of the viewer. This experimentation was clearly visible in a self-portrait with a still life of 1885. Also, he took inspiration from Japanese prints and he painted dark outlines around different objects with sharp colors in areas where thick color was prominent. Also, he opted to use different colors depending on his mood. Often on purpose, he limited his slab, for example with sunflowers, which is a complete composition of yellow color. The adoption of Gauguin’s painting technique from memory started giving attraction to Van Gogh’s paintings. Van Gogh’s reacted emotionally to the use of colors and his brushwork. His purpose of using colors was to attract the mood of the viewer rather than using them realistically. Van Gogh once said that he used colors to express himself more intensely.
Gogh painted various landscapes with flowers that included roses, irises, sunflowers, and lilacs. The use of colors shows how much he was inclined towards the language of color (Letizia, et al). Also, ukiyo (A Japanese art) has two series of dying sunflowers. He painted the first one in Paris by showings flowers resting on the ground while after a year, the second one was completed in Aries and it was of bouquets in a vase placed in the light of dawn. Both these pieces were designed by a thick layer of paintworks, they both were refined and nicely textured. He completed these series of painting to demonstrate his technical skills, he was not driven by his emotions and senses in such artwork. He also expressed methodology of Gauguin’s work. Also, there was a period of optimism of artists in the year 1888, and he developed his artwork during that time. When Gauguin came to visit him, he painted walls with big sunflower to give him warm welcome. Gauguin was thoroughly inspired by his work and also acquired two of his works of Paris versions. Once Gauguin made a departure, Gogh included two main forms of sunflower in Brussels exhibition, it was the result of his imagination. Van Gogh unfortunately, he died two years later but left a remarkable piece of artwork. He painted La Berceuse- it was thought to be as creative as his sunflowers. It contained limited palette, different brush marks, and simple outlines. The portrait represented a shift in artistic style from fluid to steady brush marks and also the uppermost part of the Portrait of the Postman to the wide brush mark, different style and approach in Madame Roulin with Baby with the use of a knife.
In the span of five years before his death, Gogh produced more than 43 self-portraits. He completed those self-portraits in series especially those which were pained in Paris during 1887, he continued that until the short period before his death. These portraits clearly reflected the intensity of his critical self-observation. Usually, these portraits represented significant stages of his life, for example, he painted mid-1887 Paris series at the time when he got to know Paul Cezanne, Signac, and Paul Monet. One of his most popular work was the Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat, heavy marks of paint expanded outward around the canvas, this work was highly organized and based on sophisticated use of brush marks. Also, the novel halo taken from Neo impressionists’ repertoire was labeled as a purposeful canvas by Van Gogh. His portraits differ in variety and color, the use of pale colors gave a reflection of his skin. Some of the self-portraits presented him in beards while others without. Also, he with bandages in some portraits after he inflicted harm to his ears. In few of his paintings, he depicted himself, he also painted himself as a reflection in the mirror.
Cypresses and Orchard.
Nature was the great source of inspiration for his paintings. Therefore, fifteen canvases represented cypresses, a tree he got fascinated with. He made these trees alive which were normally deemed as a symbol of death. He started the series of Cypresses in South France, he showed these trees in distance and as the wind blows in the fields while he was at Saint-Remy, he took them to the ground (Van Heugten, Sjraar, 2018). He called them beautiful in line and proportionate like an Egyptian shaft. Van Gogh painted many smaller forms of Wheat Field with Cypresses. The work was attributed to the swirls and heavily painted impasto, there was another painting named the Starry Night, in which cypresses is dominant at the foreground. During that period, he created other with a landscape of olives, also, in a letter he wrote to his brother, he mentioned that at least I have some landscape with olives.
His first group of paintings involved Flowering Orchards that he started after arriving in South France in February 1888. These fourteen paintings were a depiction of nature, expressive and representation of spring season. He was a firm believer in the new beginning in South France especially in the city of Arles, where he resided. Van Gogh was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of South France. He developed an image as a result of his inspiration, which he later reflected in his paintings of Flower Orchard and other landscapes. He used to spend most of his time on the farms of Arles just to get close to nature and get fresh ideas for his paintings of landscape. He also brightened his palette as a result of his inspiration from nature.
Vincent Van Gogh contributed greatly to different styles of paintings. His contributions are great concerning landscapes, portraits, self-portraits, still life. Also, he was the person who gave new concept and dimension to still life paintings. He was famous for using bold and bright colors in his paintings. He developed his skill gradually while living in Arles (the city of South France), he was fully aware of his capabilities that is why he moved to different places of Europe for enhancement of his skill. His artistic style was very much evident in almost all of his paintings. Mostly the idea behind his paintings was to represent his mood and mindset rather than viewer’s preferences. He often depicted different stages of his life through self-portraits. He mastered different techniques and used them skillfully in his paintings. Further, the use of Gauguin’s painting technique earned his paintings attraction and colors. He depicted himself in different styles through self-portraits. His great source of inspiration was nature that is why his fifteen canvases represented cypresses. He successfully created masterpieces of landscapes, still life, portraits, and self-portraits. Also, until shortly before his death, he kept creating self-portraits. Unfortunately, Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890 but his artwork is still alive.
Monico, Letizia, et al. “Full spectral XANES imaging using the Maia detector array as a new tool for the study of the alteration process of chrome yellow pigments in paintings by Vincent van Gogh.” Journal of analytical atomic spectrometry30.3 (2015): 613-626.
Van Noord, Nanne, Ella Hendriks, and Eric Postma. “Toward Discovery of the Artist’s Style: Learning to recognize artists by their artworks.” IEEE Signal Processing Magazine 32.4 (2015): 46-54.
Van Heugten, Sjraar. Van Gogh and the Seasons. Princeton University Press, 2018.