Van Gogh's Paintings tell the story of the artist
Vincent van Gogh is perhaps the most famous artist in the world.
His pen and creative genius have inspired many, despite being perceived in history as the 'mad' artist, the man who painted with frenzy or simply the soul who, in a sharp moment of suffering, cut off his own ear. .
His artistic genius has often been overshadowed by the visual manifestations of his troubled mind. But while in part his mental health undeniably influenced his art, in reality his artistic and innovative style was of enormous importance to a large number of artists who followed him.
Even when he was openly influenced by his predecessors or contemporaries, his art remained his alone, developing a distinctive style in his paintings that was unfortunately not accepted by the contemporary public of his time.
Van Gogh's Paintings of the Early Years
Although the artist's first formal job after leaving school was also related to art, he did not begin painting seriously until many years later.
At the age of 16, Vincent van Gogh became an apprentice in his uncle's art dealership in Paris.
Working with his relative would expose him to the artistic medium, but he would first devote himself to religious work, and even, for a brief period, also worked as a bookseller before creating his first painting.
His early works, completed between 1881 and 1883, reflect a novice's attention to detail, but they also contained the first hints of a rising genius, which would fully emerge in his later paintings.
Although his sketches and watercolors may, at first glance, seem two-dimensional and amateurish, his early studies of realism are already beginning to be fascinating in this period.
"What is done with love, is done well."
Van Gogh's first drawings
Vincent van Gogh created his first drawings while staying at his parents' home in Etten, the Netherlands, where he was educated primarily in anatomy, perspective, and artistic technique. The artist restricted his early sketches to a black and white palette, believing that mastery of this discipline was essential before attempting any color work.
His early drawings depict various peasants in static poses, some in profile, while his major landscapes are largely perspective studies. In his early pen and watercolor drawings, Vincent incorporated shadows and highlights rather than colors to create dimension. Drawing on strong influences from masters such as Millet, Rembrandt, and Daumier, the artist's focus on the human figure was central to his nascent artistic development.
In mid-1881, Vincent van Gogh engaged in a brief period of study with Anton Mauve, a teacher at the Hague School of Art.
Mauve not only covered his basic knowledge needs, but also introduced his student to watercolors and oils, thereby broadening the artist's field of expression.
The painting Still Life with Cabbage and Clogs , one of his earliest works, uses the somber earth tones that characterize his early Dutch-style works. It also features a rich splash of color, a harbinger of the brilliant painting style to come.
View of the Sea at Scheveningen, one of Vincent van Gogh's first forays into landscape (a genre that would sustain his interest throughout his career), was completed in August 1882. The painting depicts an active gaze of the beach near Hague.
The realism of the scene in this painting is evident even on the canvas itself, with grains of sand from the storm still embedded in the oil paintings to this day.
The work exhibits elements of the Impressionist school of art with its indistinct but moving figures in the foreground. The painting is completed with broken brushstrokes that indicate turbulent waves, being demarcated above by dark shapes, suggestive of storm clouds.
Van Gogh paintings in The Hague period
Vincent van Gogh's residence in The Hague during 1882 and 1883 proved to be a productive period in which he continued to refine his technique and explore similar but new subjects. During this time Van Gogh received his first commissions for cityscape drawings in The Hague from another uncle who was also an art dealer.
The landscape painting of Fields of Bulbs testifies to the artist's awakening to the expressive use of light and color so prominent in his later work. In the foreground of the painting, hyacinths in shades of white, blue, pink and gold fill the beds of a beautiful garden, leading the gaze towards a distant hillside and a sky full of white clouds. Shaded, thatched-roof houses frame the scene as a gardener walks between boxes in the distance.
Van Gogh's paintings in the intervening years: 1884-1887
During this era, a failed love affair, the death of his father, and a brief period of study at the Antwerp Academy, formed a somber backdrop for the artist's continued development.
During a stay in the northern town of Nuenen in late 1883 to 1885, the painter focused on agrarian scenes of peasants working the land as well as weavers plying their trade.
In 1885, the artist produced Los Campesinos Comiendo Patatas (The Potato Eaters), a work that many consider his first masterpiece.
In this depiction of a peasant family sitting around their humble table, Vincent van Gogh invokes the influence of Rembrandt by virtue of a somber setting that is nonetheless full of character and life. A plate full of potatoes illustrates the simple wealth of those who make a living from the land. The friendly atmosphere, illuminated by the warm glow of a lamp, inspires the viewer to long to participate in this intimate scene.
Van Gogh paintings in Paris
In 1886, Vincent van Gogh attended art classes at the Antwerp Academy, but stayed for only part of the year. After moving in with his brother, Theo, in Paris, Vincent studied with the artist Cormon and came into contact with fellow students Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Russell, and Emile Bernard.
Theo, an art dealer, introduced his brother to the works of prominent Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Georges Seurat, all of whom had a strong influence on the artist's future paintings.
Vincent was able to meet and befriend the artist Paul Gauguin during this same period, and Gauguin's brightly colored paintings also exerted a strong influence on the Dutchman's prodigious art.
In 1887, Vincent van Gogh experimented with the pointillist technique of George Seurat, who used it in such works as A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte .
In one of his many self-portraits, Self-Portrait with a Gray Felt Hat , Vincent uses small dots of color that reflect light to reveal a sharp-featured man with the world-weary expression of someone who seems to have seen more than he can. endure.
It was during this time in his life that the artist became interested in Ukiyo-e , a genre of prints made using a woodcut or woodcut technique, produced in Japan between the 17th and 20th centuries, including landscape images, of the theater and alternate areas.
He and other contemporaries such as Claude Monet and Edgar Degas began to collect them, being works that would inspire paintings that reflect the influence of the Japonaiserie in his technique and artistic vision.
An original work by artist Keisai Eisen, Van Gogh's replica of The Courtesan features an infusion of brilliant color that far outshines the original. He chose a background of a lily pond instead of Eisen's cherry blossoms.
Van Gogh's Paintings in the Later Period
Vincent van Gogh moved from Theo's house in Paris to Arles, in the south of France, in 1888, where he rented his famous Yellow House.
In the spring, the artist painted the flourishing landscapes of Provence, as well as seascapes in nearby Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer. During this productive period in his life, the artist also made a number of portraits, including his series of paintings portraying the Roulin family .
While preparing a room in his Yellow House to accommodate Gauguin, who was planning to visit Arles for an extended stay later in the year, Vincent van Gogh was also working on his second series of Sunflowers paintings .
He had created the first series while he was with his brother in Paris. The artist's paintings of sunflowers featured various backgrounds and arrangements of the large golden flowers, each similar but distinct. Art connoisseurs especially appreciate these works for their groundbreaking expansion of the yellow color spectrum. Others appreciate the paintings for their unique combination of simplicity and richly evocative detail.
Although Gauguin's visit was highly anticipated by Vincent van Gogh, his arrival at The Yellow House in October 1888 did not end as planned.
At first, both artists enjoyed a prolific period in their careers together, but disagreements and arguments marred the productive tone of the fledgling company. Tensions between the two culminated in late December when Vincent allegedly attacked his colleague with a razor blade and ended up cutting off part of his own ear.
The syphilis disease was beginning to reveal itself: he began to hallucinate and would suffer attacks in which he frequently lost consciousness.
Still, Van Gogh later claimed not to remember anything about the fateful event with the razor.
After losing his ear, Vincent van Gogh spent the next few days in the Arles hospital. It is generally assumed that Vincent Van Gogh had syphilis because approximately 10% of all European men carried the disease in the late 19th century. Van Gogh is believed to have been infected with syphilis as he frequented brothels and exhibited erratic behavior. According to some historians, around this time Van Gogh had terrible mouth sores and lost a lot of weight because he couldn't eat.
Unlike gonorrhea, which he also suffered from, syphilis caused him insanity in its last stage, called neurosyphilis. Perhaps one of the decisive factors in his suicide was that the artist feared developing the final symptoms of the disease.
Although struggling with rapid mental decline, Van Gogh produced a series of stylistically diverse paintings depicting the hospital itself and the olive and cypress trees on the grounds surrounding the institution.
Vincent van Gogh painted his brilliant 1889 work, Irises, in the garden of Saint-Remy during his stay in that place of seclusion.
The painting, which exhibits some characteristics of Japanese woodblock prints, as well as the artist's penchant for color and light, was part of the annual Societe des Artistes Independiente exhibition in Paris, thanks to Theo's intervention, along with La Starry Night over the Rhône .
Van Gogh, a prolific artist
Between November 1881 and July 1890, Vincent van Gogh painted almost 900 paintings, a very prolific production for any time.
Since his death, Van Gogh has become one of the most famous painters in the world. His paintings have captured the minds and converted the hearts of millions of art lovers.
“There are two ways of thinking about painting, how not to do it and how to do it: how to do it - with a lot of drawing and little color; how not to do it, with a lot of color and little drawing ".
Van Gogh firmly believed that to be a great painter one had to master drawing before adding colour. Over the years, the artist clearly mastered drawing and began to use more color. Over time, one of the most recognizable aspects of Van Gogh's paintings became his bold use of color. This characteristic is evident both in the landscapes and in his still lifes.
About a year before his death, Van Gogh predicted that there would be a great "painter of the future" who would know how to use color like no other and would become the future of painting. He expressed this in a letter to his brother Theo in May 1888,
“As for me, I will continue to work, and here and there some of my work will prove to be of lasting value, but who can achieve in figure painting what Claude Monet has achieved in landscape? Yet you must feel, as I do, that someone like this is on the way, Rodin? - doesn't use color - it won't be him. But the painter of the future will be a colorist such as has never been seen before."
During his lifetime, Van Gogh was never famous as a painter and struggled to make a living as an artist.
Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, The Red Vineyard . This painting was sold in Brussels for 400 francs just a few months before his death.
About a week after his passing, Van Gogh's brother Theo wrote to his sister Elizabeth about Van Gogh's legacy as a great artist:
“In the last letter he wrote to me and which dates from about four days before his death, he says:“ I try to do as well as certain painters whom I have loved and admired very much ”. People should realize that he was a great artist, something that often coincides with being a great human being. In the course of time this will surely be recognized, and his early death will be mourned by many."
Van Gogh's hope that his work could continue to inspire the world after his death has come true: to this day, his extraordinary, unparalleled art reaches millions of admirers in every corner of the globe.
Explore some of the most representative Van Gogh Paintings in the Kuadros collection that bears his name.
Kuadros, a famous painting on his wall.