Vincent Van Gogh

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The eldest child of a Dutch Reformed servant and the little girl of a bookseller, Vincent van Gogh pursued various livelihoods, including that of a craft salesman and minister, before deciding to turn himself into an artisan at the age of 27. During the entire period of his long career (1880-90) he supplied almost 900 artistic creations and more than 1100 tokens on paper. Unexpectedly, in 1890, he subtly assessed his imaginative heritage as “exceptionally helpful” in meaning.

Largely self-confident, Van Gogh gained his craft poise by enthusiastically replicating prints and concentrating on nineteenth-century draftsman’s manuals and illustration books, such as Charles Bargue’s Exercises au fusain and Cours de dessin. In 1882 he moved from his people’s home in Etten to The Hague, where he received conventional guidance from his cousin Anton Mauve, the master craftsman of the Hague School. In the same year, he executed his most memorable autonomous works in watercolor and turned to oil painting; in addition, he participated in his most memorable profit as a craftsman: his uncle, the craftsman Cornelis Marinus van Gogh, authorized two adaptations of drawings of the cities of The Hague, for which Van Gogh chose to depict such ordinary subjects as views of the railway station, gasworks. , and nursery gardens (1972.118.281).

In choosing to paint provincial life, Van Gogh was influenced by his deep respect for Barbizon specialists, especially Jean-François Millet. As he lived with his people in Nuenen during the colder months of 1884-85, Van Gogh painted more than forty studies of workers’ heads, culminating in his first large-scale multi-figure organization (Potato Eaters, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). Its dull scale and crude use of color encapsulate the works of the Nuenen Craftsman period (67.187.70b; 1984.393).

Seeking to improve his skills as a figure painter, Van Gogh left the Netherlands in late 1885 to study at the Antwerp Academy in Belgium. After 90 days, he went to Paris, where he lived with his sibling Theo, a salesman for handicrafts at Boussod, Valadon et Cie, and for a time took courses at Fernando Cormon’s studio. 

Van Gogh’s style underwent a marked change during his two-year stay in Paris (February 1886-February 1888). There he saw the Impressionists created firsthand and also saw the latest developments of the Neo-Impressionists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Accordingly, Van Gogh moderated his scope and explored different avenues regarding the botched brushstrokes of the Impressionists as well as the pointillist drift of the Neo-Impressionists, as evidenced in the treatment of his Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (67.187. 70a), painted in late spring 1887 on the reverse of a previous workman’s study (67.187.70b). He executed more than twenty self-representations in Paris, which reflect his constant exploration of corresponding varied contrasts and a bolder style.

Gauguin joined Van Gogh in Arles in October and withdrew unexpectedly at the end of December 1888, a move prompted by Van Gogh’s breakdown, during which he cut off a piece of his left ear with a razor. After returning from the emergency in January, he continued to negotiate with the representation of the husband of the postmaster, Joseph Roulin; Despite the fact that he painted all individuals of the Roulin family, Van Gogh presented five renditions of Madame Roulin as La Berceuse, shown holding a rope that stones the support of her little girl (1996.435). He envisioned her representation as the centerpiece of a three-panel painting, flanked by the artwork of sunflowers. For Van Gogh, her painting rose above representation and reflected emblematically as the ultimate Madonna; of its range, which extends from ocher to vermilion and malachite, Van Gogh communicated his desire to “sing a children’s song with variety” and emphasized the expressive work of variety in his specialty.

Fearing another breakdown, Van Gogh voluntarily entered an asylum in nearby Saint-Rémy in May 1889, where he painted about 150 canvases over the course of the next year. His initial confinement to the hospital grounds is reflected in his paintings, from depictions of its corridors (48.190.2) to the irises and lilacs of its walled garden, visible from the window of the spare room he was to use as a studio. 

He ventured outside the hospital grounds, painting the surrounding landscape and dedicating the series to its olive groves (1998.325.1) and cypresses, which he considered characteristic of Provence. In June he produced two paintings of cypresses, made with thick, glued layers of paint (49.30; Cypresses, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo), in a letter to his brother Theo he compared the shape of the cypress to an Egyptian obelisk. These evocative trees figure prominently in the landscape, created in the same month (1993.132). Van Gogh considered this work of a sunlit wheat field billowing in the wind to be one of his “best” summer canvases. At Saint-Rémy he also painted copies of works by such artists as Delacroix, Rembrandt, and Millet using black and white photographs and prints. 

He produced 21 specimens in the autumn and winter of 1889–90 after Millet (64.165.2); he used the term “interpretations” and “translations” to describe his originals, comparing his role as an artist to that of a musician performing another’s work. As a final series comparable to the sunflower decoration he had created earlier in Arles, he painted four bouquets of irises (58.187) and roses (1993.400.5) in the asylum during his last week.

As a result of Van Gogh’s year in Saint-Rémy, in May 1890, he moved to Auvers-Sur-Oise, where he was near his brother Theo in Paris. There, he also received the care of Dr. Paul Gachet, a homeopathic physician, and amateur painter. 

In just over two months, Van Gogh averaged a painting a day; However, on July 27, 1890, he shot himself in the chest in a wheat field; he died two days later. His artistic legacy is preserved in the paintings and drawings he left behind, as well as in his extensive correspondence, particularly with Theo, which reveals his working methods and artistic intentions and serves as a reminder of his brother’s pivotal role as a mainstay. throughout his career.

By the time of his death in 1890, Van Gogh’s work had begun to attract critical attention. His paintings were shown at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris from 1888 to 1890 and at Les XX in Brussels in 1890. As Gauguin wrote to him, his recent works that were on view at the Indépendants in Paris were considered by many artists to be “the most remarkable ” in the show; and one of his paintings was sold from the 1890 exhibition in Brussels. 

In January 1890, critic Albert Aurier published the first full-length article on Van Gogh, linking his art to the nascent Symbolist movement and emphasizing the originality and intensity of his artistic vision. After the outbreak of the First World War, when the Fauves and the German Expressionists discovered his genius, Vincent van Gogh was already considered a leading figure in the history of modern art.

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Van Gogh's Masterpieces