Joey Pelliccia Documented Essay 12/11/10 Vincent Van Gogh: Madman and Artist Vincent Van Gogh, from the words of many, is one of the most famous post-impressionist painters of modern art the world has ever seen. Van Gogh was a serious, smart thinking man that found art to be the passion of his life. Van Gogh was a driven artist, but inside was a fragile, ill man that was consumed by his sickness. One way to fully understand Van Gogh’s thinking about his art,his thoughts, and his beliefs is through his letters that he had written to his younger brother Theodore.
From Van Gogh’s art to his letters, one can truly see the passion and he put into every piece he created, as well as his emotions at the time. Vincent Van Gogh was was born on March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zundert, a village within the southern Netherlands. As a child, Van Gogh was found to be very serious as well as quiet and attended school within the village he lived in. Later on he attended middle school in Tilburg, the Netherlands and this is where he was taught how to draw and began to find drawing very intriguing.
It wouldn’t be until he obtained a job working for an art dealer that his uncle helped get him into, his passion for art. Van Gogh had his own unique methods for the art he created. “Van Gogh created the drawings, which emphasizes that they, like the letters he wrote to his brother, Theo, were “regular and faithful records of what was on his mind. ” ” (American Artist 77). Van Gogh visualized many things and would simply go out and begin painting what he saw, the way he saw it in his mind. He did not throw his paint on the canvas in a burst of emotion, but considered carefully the effects he was striving to achieve. ” (Art Newspaper 49-50). Painting brought Van Gogh much joy in his life and is quoted to have said that, “The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting. ” “Van Gogh’s greatest resource was his visual memory and raw instincts. ” (American Artist 77). Although Van Gogh may have learned the fundamentals of how to draw while attending middle school, beyond that he took his basic knowledge and expanded that idea, teaching himself about art and viewing it within his own way.
The fact in which Van Gogh was almost entirely self taught and the works he created, show his devotion for art and how he truly saw art in a different way. At the time there was no one like Van Gogh and this is evident though his thinking and his paintings and it was probably the reason why his work was not showcased. “Van Gogh had ambivalent feelings about his environment. ” (Art Newspaper 90). When viewing Van Gogh’s paintings, it is easy to spot the different moods Van Gogh had at the time of each painting. While living in Paris, it is said that Van Gogh discovered impressionism.
Impressionism is a style of painting depicting the visual feeling, using the different effects of light and color. Van Gogh’s self portraits display his emotions and helped him to look at himself in a deeper perspective. “Van Gogh’s self-portraits are another story. These are the scaring records of soul-wrestling, the riveting evidence of a painter gone deep into the human psyche. ” (Art New England 23-5). [pic] Van Gogh’s self portrait with a straw hat was one of his last self portraits while in Paris in 1888. We can see how the different effects of lights and colors are used within this self portrait.
This self portrait shows the contrast of light because one can see that the left side of his face is darker than the right side of his face. The right side of his face is more illuminated and the colors are used differently. We see the use of colors within the whole painting. There is yellow mixed with brown as well as green within his jacket. There are different shades of yellow within his hat. The background of the painting has mostly brown with streaks of yellow in it as well. The whole self portrait in itself has use of different colors on one specific color.
The brushstrokes found within the self portrait work to show the grooves within the jacket as well as the straw within the straw hat. Van Gogh found much peacefulness in the countryside and this is why he moved south of Paris, settling in Arles. This is where Van Gogh created some of his most famous paintings. [pic] Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night is one of his most famous paintings. This was painted while Van Gogh was living in Arles, France. First and foremost, the painting is covered with different colors. We can also see the use of light from the dark shadows of the street, to the highly illuminated cafe.
The stars within the painting illuminate the sky and the lights from the windows shown from the dark street seem to barely escape the darkness of the street. The mood seems to be a very relaxing and a peaceful night where people are going out to a cafe to sit down, relax, and talk. This is what Van Gogh tried to capture while living in Arles. Throughout Van Gogh’s life, he would consistently write letters to his brother Theodore Van Gogh explaining each piece of artwork he would create and his ideas and thinking behind each piece. Vincent Van Gogh’s letters have offered the general public an intimate view of the artist’s life and psyche since at least 1893. ” (Art & Antiques 48,50). They are a primary source for understanding the way Van Gogh thought and how he created each piece of art. “The letters are of interest, not only for their content, but also for their copious and detailed illustrations which often refer directly to realized works, especially in the artist’s letters to his brother Theo in which he gives examples of the paintings he was working on. ” (Art Newspaper 74).
Theodore always kept the letters he received from Vincent and upon Theodore’s death, his wife kept all the letters and later published them to honor the work and ideas of Vincent Van Gogh. The letters are filled with so many descriptions of Van Gogh’s, ideas, and different techniques. “There are more than 4,300 illustrations, including every painting and graphic work of his own and of other artists to which he refers. It is certainly the best art book I’ve ever read and the only one that I would say today, at this moment, is truly indispensable. ” (Modern Painters 24-7).
While Van Gogh was living in Arles, he started experiencing violent seizures, which was the beginning of his sickness affecting him. Later on Van Gogh was trying to persuade Paul Gauguin to come with him to Paris. Some time after the two began to have violent disputes and in one case Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor blade. Van Gogh feeling sorry for what he had done, cut off his ear. This is where Van Gogh’s madness began to emerge. Van Gogh was sent to an asylum in Saint-Remy for a year. While in Saint-Remy Van Gogh managed to create many oil paintings and drawings. pic] One of his famous works of art while in Saint-Remy is Wheat Field with Cypresses. Van Gogh’s brushstrokes make the painting come alive because they are so thick and vivid. This painting also uses a lot of key impressionism elements in it as well. He seemed to have invited all the colors together into this piece which made the painting more define. The hue of the painting seems to be mostly a green, blue, and yellow. The main elements of the painting seem to mostly be conquered by a baby blue and a hunter/forest green.
The luminosity in Wheat Field with Cypresses is a key factor in this painting. The light and contrast of the painting stands out with its bright colors and one dark figure which is the tree. The over lapping of paint colors and objects make it seem as if you, yourself, are looking into the field. The tree in the picture seems as if its about to touch the top of the painting which shows how the tree is dominant. The position of the objects in the painting seem to be closer and larger then the objects that appear to be higher in the painting. For Van Gogh there can be a story behind the painting.
This was painted behind the gates of an asylum so maybe the fact that freedom and peacefulness were so close yet unobtainable brought him some comfort that beauty was still out there or could have made him depressed in the fact that he could not obtain that freedom. The tree can be symbolic of the fact that something so big can be in such a quiet area. The tree stands out in the picture because it is the only thing placed in the painting that stood out because of color, shape, etc. While in Saint-Remy Van Gogh suffered from maniac outbursts as well as depression.
Soon after he was released from Saint-Remy he borrowed a revolver from his brother Theodore. Eventually Van Gogh would shoot himself in the chest and would die two days later after the incident on July 29, 1890. His brother Theodore would die a year later. All the aspects of Van Gogh’s madness led up to when he shot himself. This was his final act of madness where he could simply not take it anymore. A note was found in Van Gogh’s pocket after his death saying, “Ah well, I risk my life for my own work and my reason has half foundered in it. ” (The Lancet 629).
In the end it was not the madness of Van Gogh that intrigued people, but the paintings that were left behind by Van Gogh. Within Van Gogh’s lifetime, his works were not much appreciated or popular, however in today’s world they are praised and are deemed to be amazing works of art. Whether its the beauty and uniqueness of Van Gogh’s paintings or the letters which explain and show his ideas, thoughts, as well as examples in art in ways no one has ever seen before, one this is common that all of Van Gogh’s works were highly thought out and amazing in themselves.
Works Cited | | | | |Bailey, Martin. How Van Gogh found beauty in the urban sprawl. Art Newspaper v. 19 (October 2010) p. 90 | |Bailey, Martin. Van Gogh’s letters: the definitive edition. Art Newspaper v. 18 (October 2009) p. 49-50 | Collings, Matthew Think About van Gogh In a Different Way [Review article and exhibit]. Modern Painters v. 22 no. 1 (February 2010) p. 24-7| |Lee, D. The Real Van Gogh: the Artist and His Letters: Royal Academy of Arts [Exhibit preview]. Art Newspaper v. 19 (January 2010) p. 74 | |Lopez, J. A Life in Letters. Art & Antiques v. 33 no. 2 (February 2010) p. 48, 50 | |Dutch boy paint lasts forever. Art New England v. 21 no. 6 (October/November 2000) p. 23-5 |