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Van Gogh Essays

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 is much more abstract than View From Artists Window, much more quick dabs of the paint brush and unlike View From Artists Window, if you took a section from The Boulevard Montmartre At Night you may not understand what is painted in that section. Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh has risen to the peak of artistic achievements. Although Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life, the aftermath of his work is enormous.
Starry Night is one of the most well known images in modern culture as well as being one of the most replicated and sought after prints. One may begin to ask what features within the painting are responsible for its ever growing popularity. There are actually several main aspects that intrigue those. Firstly here is the night sky filled with swirling clouds, stars ablaze with their own luminescence, and a bright crescent moon. Although the features are exaggerated, this is a scene we can all relate to, and also one that most individuals feel comfortable and at ease with.
This sky keeps the viewer’s eyes moving about the painting, following the curves and creating a visual dot to dot with the stars. This movement keeps the onlooker involved in the painting while the other factors take hold. Secondly below the rolling hills of the horizon lies a small town. There is a peaceful essence flowing from the structures. Perhaps the cool dark colors and the fiery windows spark memories of our own warm childhood years filled with imagination of what exists in the night and dark starry skies. The center point of the town is the tall steeple of the church, reigning largely over the smaller buildings.
This steeple casts down a sense of stability onto the town, and also creates a sense of size and seclusion. Thirdly to the left of the painting there is a massive dark structure that develops an even greater sense of size and isolation. This structure is magnificent when compared to the scale of other objects in the painting. The curving lines mirror that of the sky and create the sensation of depth in the painting. This structure also allows the viewer to interpret what it is. From a mountain to a leafy bush, the analysis of this formation is wide and full of variety. Van Gogh painted Starry Night while in an Asylum at Saint-Remy in 1889.
During Van Gogh’s younger years he wanted to dedicate his life to evangelization of those in poverty. Many believe that this religious endeavor may be reflected in the eleven stars of the painting. Whether or not this religious inspiration is true, it is known that the piece is not the only Starry Sky painting that Van Gogh ever created. Gogh was quite proud of a piece he had painted earlier in Arles in 1888 that depicted stars reflecting in the Rhone River. Like Starry Sky this previous piece shares many of the qualities that have made Starry Sky such a popular painting.
For instance the stars in the night sky are surrounded with their own orb of light. Furthermore the Reflection of artificial light from Arles in the river makes the one’s eyes move around the painting; thus keeping the viewer visually involved. There are also structures in the distant lit up in a warm glow of light. Starry Night over the Rhone contains one final aspect that is not featured in the Starry Night piece; humans. In the bottom right corner of the painting there is a couple walking along the river. This gives the painting a down to earth feel with a natural quality.
Although this painting is not nearly as popular as the seconded Starry Night piece, it still creates a pleasurable and life like environment to look at. It is also resides as a very sought after piece when it is placed with Starry Night and the following painting to create a montage of Van Gogh’s Starry Night works. Cafe Terrace At Night was also painted in Arles in 1888. The similarities between this piece the previous two are vaguely similar. This piece offers a new type of perspective on the star filled sky. The Stars are barely consumed in their own light.
Also the bright yellow wall draws in ones attention rather then assisting to move one’s eyes around the painting. There is a real sense of balance attributed to the dark cityscape silhouette to the right of the painting (Contrasting the bright yellow wall). Never the less these three paintings have astounded millions of people and remain three of the best works ever to flow from Van Gogh’s paint brush. Georges Seurat is chiefly remembered as the pioneer of the Neo-Impressionist technique commonly known as Divisionism, or Pointillism, an approach associated with a softly flickering surface of small dots or strokes of colour.
His innovations derived from new quasi-scientific theories about colour and expression, yet the graceful beauty of his work is explained by the influence of very different sources. Initially, he believed that great modern art would show contemporary life in ways similar to classical art, except that it would use technologically informed techniques. Later he grew more interested in Gothic art and popular posters, and the influence of these on his work make it some of the first modern art to make use of such unconventional sources for expression.
His success quickly propelled him to the forefront of the Parisian avant-garde. His triumph was short-lived, as after barely a decade of mature work he died at the age of only 31. But his innovations would be highly influential, shaping the work of Vincent Van Gogh. Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte was one of the stand-out works in the eighth and last Impressionist exhibition, in 1884, and after it was shown later that year, at the Societe des Artistes Independents, it encouraged critic Felix Feneon to invent the name ‘Neo-Impressionism. The picture took Seurat two years to complete and he spent much of this time sketching in the park in preparation. It was to become the most famous picture of the 1880s. Once again, as in Bathers, the scale of the picture is equal to the dimensions and ambition of major Salon pictures. The site – again situated on the Seine in northwest Paris – is also close by. And Seurat’s technique was similar, employing tiny juxtaposed dots of multi-coloured paint that allow the viewer’s eye to blend colours optically, rather than having the colours blended on the canvas or pre-blended as a material pigment.
The artist said that his ambition was to “make modern people in their essential traits move about as they do on [ancient Greek] friezes and place them on canvases organized by harmonies. ” But the classicism of the Bathers is gone from La Grand Jatte; instead the scene has a busy energy, and, as critics have often noted, some of the figures are depicted at discordant scales. It marked the beginning of a new primitivism in Seurat’s work that was inspired in part by popular art. This is influential on Van Gogh through Seurat’s use of complementary colours.

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