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Vincent van Gogh

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Discuss the mythic relationship between Vincent van Gogh’s artistic/creative drive and his delicate psychological condition. Is one necessary for the other, or are they mutually exclusive? Describe a possible cause and effect scenario, using the artist’s own words.

Few artists have created a body of work that is so inseparable from the facts and myths of the artist’s life and persona. Van Gogh’s unbridled passion and ecstatic contemplation of life, nature, and art, his intense spirituality and religious zeal, his generous, ardent, and sincere disposition, and especially, his violent and enigmatic illnesses and suicide at age thirty-seven have all contributed to powerful and often inaccurate myths that can obscure a clear understanding of the important painter. The months he spent in Arles, St. Remy, and Auvers allowed Vincent to paint at a near frenzied pace, until he felt “broke and crazy” (L 513, July 1888). His last two and a half years of life comprised the most prolific and successful period of his career. However, the stress and sheer physical and mental exertion of this obsessive output was too much for his encroaching illnesses, and his condition gradually worsened as his painting became increasingly facile, formally daring, and accomplished.

It is easy, but ultimately misguided, to view and interpret van Gogh’s painting strictly in light of his psychological condition–the strong evidence of his letters indicates that he only worked during lucid periods. He was able to discuss his work on a superior intellectual and rational level with his brother and his friends. More accurate than the notion that his art was produced by his psychological crises is the understanding of his art as the catalyst for his psychological collapse. Vincent himself voiced sentiments of regret at the physical and mental disintegration that he believed were the fault of his obsessive creativity: “The more I am spent, ill, a broken pitcher, by so much more I am an artist. [A] kind of melancholy remains within us when we think that one could have created life at less cost than creating art” (L 514, July 1888). In other words, we should not overestimate the effect van Gogh’s breakdowns had on his art, but instead untangle the myths in order to recognize and concentrate on a profound talent tempered by a prodigious, exhausting, and ultimately, debilitating creative effort.

Discuss the influence that Impressionism and Japanese prints had on van Gogh’s work, specifically during the Paris period. Did Impressionism permanently alter his sense of color and form, or were the influences that led to his mature style more complex?

Although he was still an outsider (due to his non-French nationality, his unallied work, and his unpredictable bipolarity), Vincent finally felt part of a community of artists during his time in Paris. He was able to trade paintings with many of the Impressionists, and a Parisian dealer even took some of his work. The influence of the Impressionists’s color theories and use of light, along with Vincent’s rising interest in Japanese prints, brought Vincent closer to his mature style as he tried a pseudo-Pointillist approach to painting in discreet, regular, short brushstrokes in heavy impasto and explored vibrant color, “seeking oppositions. to harmonize brutal extremes. trying to render intense color and not a gray harmony” (L 470).

By August 1886, Vincent had left Cormon’s studio because of Cormon’s refusal of the new color theories and his insistence on painting plaster casts rather than live nude models. Vincent painted atmospheric cityscapes (like View from Vincent’s Window and The Roofs of Paris) and a remarkable series of flowers in vases (like Vase with Poppies, Daisies, Cornflowers, and Peonies and Vase with Gladioli) to discipline his discovery of powerful color and Impressionist/neo-Impressionist theory. His Paris style is a unique amalgam of Impressionism and his own mature style of proto- Expressionism; van Gogh was influenced by Impressionism and the flattened, linear forms of Japanese prints (which he collected), but also by the old Dutch masters. His art was inherently synthetic, combining disparate influences to create a completely unique vision of stylized representation that went far beyond the circumscribed confines of Impressionism. Even in his Parisian self- portraits and portraits (particularly Portrait of Pere Tanguy), he began to distort and exaggerate form to express the overwhelming turmoil of his emotional life. Vincent experimented with Impressionist theory and technique, absorbed what he wanted, and then rejected the rest. His conception of art was fundamentally different from the Impressionists’–his paintings record the immediacy of emotional, spiritual, and psychological impact with the subject filtered through the artist, as opposed to the purely optical/perceptual recording of the Impressionists. His mature style bears little resemblance to Impressionism–the color, form, heavily modeled line, paint handling, and texture is diametrically opposed to Impressionism in its intensity, nonobjective, unnatural choice of colors and the violent, forceful attack of line and form.

What influence did van Gogh’s radical stylistic departures from the Parisian avant-garde’s languages of Impressionism and post-Impressionism have on the development of modernist painting?

A brilliant colorist who took Gauguin’s subjective color choices a step further to his characteristically acidic, imaginative, overwhelmingly intense hues, Van Gogh’s tremendous influence on the development of Expressionism is due to his unique skill as a draughtsman and his immediately recognizable heavy, sculptural line. He wrote to his brother, “Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily in order to express myself forcibly. to exaggerate the essential and to leave the obvious vague” (Arnason 85). For instance, in his nightmarish masterpiece The Night Cafe, 1888, he sought “to express in red and green the terrible passions of human beings” (Schapiro 26). Van Gogh’s revolutionary approach to painting had a strong influence on the next generation of artists, beginning with Matisse and the French Expressionists, also known as the Fauves. He offered these early modernists a powerful alternative to the avant-garde centrality of delicate Parisian Impressionism and post-Impressionism. His innovative and radical use of unnatural color, his angular, heavy line, his compression of three-dimensional space into two-dimensional discreet pictorial elements (like brushstroke and pattern), and particularly his stylized distortion and often-groteque exaggeration of reality all appealed to the Expressionist artists. The German Expressionists, especially the Die Brucke group, considered themselves the heirs to van Gogh, whom they esteemed the premier genius of modern art. Van Gogh’s penetrating and revealing portraits were of special interest to the young Germans’ and Austrians’ high regard for the psychoanalytical theories of Freud. Even Picasso was not immune to van Gogh’s formidable influence. Picasso’s pre- Cubist work demonstrates his knowledge of van Gogh’s painting, and the Vincent’s spontaneity and forceful immediacy affected even Picasso’s transitional Cubist work in the era of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Joan Miro admitted that his early work was indebted to van Gogh. His influence reappeared after WWII with Abstract Expressionism, particularly the work of fellow Dutchman Willem de Kooning, and the respectful van Gogh studies and tribute paintings of the British neo-Expressionist painter Francis Bacon. Even today, van Gogh’s stylistic syntax is evident in neo-Expressionist painting in Europe and the United States.

Essay Topics

Discuss van Gogh’s complex relationship with his family, particularly his brother Theo. To what extent did Vincent distance himself from his family and/or embrace his heritage?

To what extent did van Gogh’s nationality influence his life, his art, and his outsider status? Is his nationality crucial to his artistic development? Does it matter that he wasn’t French like the rest of his avant-garde colleagues?

Discuss van Gogh’s obsession with portrait painting in light of his life and his personality. Why did the portrait fascinate him so, especially towards the end of his life? What did he mean when he said he wanted his portraits to be like “apparitions”? Cite specific examples of work.

Discuss the development of the landscape in van Gogh’s art, from his early work in The Netherlands through his transcendent final double-square landscapes from Auvers? Does van Gogh ever really achieve abstraction with his landscapes?

What role did religion, spirituality, and faith play in van Gogh’s life and art? Discuss the evolution of his faith, from childhood to death, citing specific works if possible.

Why do you think van Gogh was so preoccupied with peasant portraiture and documentation for so much of his life, even though he himself came from a decidedly middle-class family? How does this preoccupation relate to his ideas about religion, place, and the value of life?

Do you think van Gogh’s psychological troubles, and/or his spiritual and artistic life, was really triggered by his first failed love affair with Eugenie Loyer in London? What part did romance play in van Gogh’s life and work? Discuss his view of women, in light of his early interest in Michelet’s writings as well as his depiction of women in his art? Cite specific paintings as examples.

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Van gogh essay

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As I work on this painting of the wheat fields, sadness overcomes me. I worry that Theo, my loving brother, and his family also suffers sadness because of me. Theo’s condition seems to be worsening and I fear for his health. I have gone back to work on my canvases, and have given them my undivided attention. My sickness has taken so much of my life away from me that I suddenly have tried to make the time come back. How I long for its return, when I was able to work for hours, and paint to my hearts content. [tags: Artists]

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Van Gogh Biography

By: Tommy • Essay • 418 Words • April 12, 2010 • 1,124 Views

Van Gogh Biography

Vincent van Gogh, for whom color was the chief symbol of expression, was born in Groot-Zundest, Holland. The son of a pastor, brought up in a religious and cultured atmosphere, Vincent was highly emotional and lacked self-confidence. Between 1860 and 1880, when he finally decided to become an artist, van Gogh had had two unsuitable and unhappy romances and had worked unsuccessfully as a clerk in a bookstore, an art salesman, and a preacher in the Borinage (a dreary mining district in Belgium), where he was dismissed for overzealousness. He remained in Belgium to study art, determined to give happiness by creating beauty. The works of his early Dutch period are somber-toned, sharply lit, genre paintings of which the most famous is "The Potato Eaters" (1885). In that year van Gogh went to Antwerp where he discovered the works of Rubens and purchased many Japanese prints.

In 1886 he went to Paris to join his brother Thйo, the manager of Goupil's gallery. In Paris, van Gogh studied with Cormon, inevitably met Pissarro, Monet, and Gauguin, and began to lighten his very dark palette and to paint in the short brushstrokes of the Impressionists. His nervous temperament made him a difficult companion and night-long discussions combined with painting all day undermined his health. He decided to go south to Arles where he hoped his friends would join him and help found a school of art. Gauguin did join him but with disastrous results. In a fit of epilepsy, van Gogh pursued his friend

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Van Gogh’s Art in the Context of His Life

Vincent van Gogh was a person with a difficult and dramatic life. He was a poor, unknown artist suffering from a mental disease. But his perseverance, use of art as a skill to cope with illness, dedication to art, and the support of his brother helped him to keep on painting. He developed his own style of impasto painting and pushed the boundaries of impressionism. This approach to art set van Gogh’s place among the most famous artists in history, and though he died unknown, now his name is synonymous with being an artist.

When van Gogh stayed at the mental hospital in Saint-Remy, he used painting as a coping mechanism to help himself deal with his symptoms. It is a well-known fact that van Gogh had psychological problems; once, he attacked his friend Gauguin, and according to the most popular version of the story from historians, after that he cut half of his ear off with a razor. The admitting physician described Vincent van Gogh’s symptoms as mania with hallucinations (Van Gogh Museum, 2005). During his hospitalization, he created 150 paintings. Instead of allowing himself to get discouraged during his stay at the hospital, van Gogh persevered and continued to work on his paintings.

Throughout van Gogh’s life, his brother Theo was a source of financial and emotional support. Though Theo is often credited with introducing the world to Vincent van Gogh’s art, his efforts might have failed without the support of Theo’s wife, Johanna van Gogh. After all, Theo died two months after Vincent (Righthand, 2010). Through Theo’s showing of Vincent’s work, he had begun to gain some notoriety. However, Johanna prized Vincent’s art and relied on selling some of the paintings to help support her young son (Righthand, 2010).

Van Gogh was a prolific artist. He painted for 10 years, and during this period of time, he created 860 pieces of art (Van Gogh Museum, 2005). His paintings demonstrate a clear style of movement and color in thick layers of paint. Artists cannot gain attention without having an original, notable style of their own—so van Gogh worked on developing his distinct style. Instead of merely copying the impressionism style popular back then, he transformed it into his own; now van Gogh is recognized as being an artist of post-impressionism.

Vincent van Gogh became one of the most famous artists in history. He used art as a tool to fight his mental illness. Despite his difficulties, he diligently worked on his paintings; with the help of his family, he dedicated 10 years of his life to producing an incredible number of paintings. After his death, his family continued to promote Vincent’s work. With van Gogh’s well-defined style and numerous works, he became an artist adored globally postmortem.

Righthand, J. (2010, November 2). The Woman Who Brought Van Gogh to the World. Retrieved from

Van Gogh Museum. (2005). Van Gogh’s Life. Retrieved from

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Van Gogh Essay

In this essay I am going to discuss Vincent Van Gogh and post-Impressionism. Vincent Willem van Gogh (March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found). His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still. France in the late 19th century was in the rule of the ambitious Napoleon III. Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck waged war on France, capturing Paris and claiming other regions of French territory. The French troops proved no match to the well trained and large Prussian army, forcing Napoleon III to surrender and go into exile. A year later the war with Germany had ended and the Third Republic emerged, signalling the final days of the monarchy in France. Struggles between the Monarchists and the Republicans continued until finally in 1877 a move by the Royalists to replace the president with a king was blocked. This was a time of industrial expansion as well as of extensive cultural contributions, especially in the literary and artistic fields. Breaking free of the impressionist style in the late 1880’s, a group of painters found independent artistic styles for expressing emotions instead of just optical impressions, concentrating on themes of deeper symbolism. Their work was characterized by a new aesthetic sense as well as abstract tendencies due to their use of simplified colours and finished forms. Seurat, Van Gogh, Gaugin and Cezanne all followed various stylistic paths to find genuine intellectual and artistic achievements. Although they didn’t see themselves as a group of the same movement, they are categorized as post-impressionists. For example The Boulevard Montmartre At Night.

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