Analyzing Van Gogh

“A head and shoulders portrait of a thirty something man, with a red beard, facing to the left” Wiki Media Commons. 1889 Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh might be the best known painter of all time. His paintings have captivated the world for over a century. We will analyze the reasons for this in this chapter.

As a young adult, Van Gogh started a career as an art dealer. Unfortunately, finding little success, Van Gogh turned to painting. During his lifetime, he completed over 2000 works of art. He dedicated every breathing moment to painting. Van Gogh approached painting with very strong brushstrokes. Using large amounts of paint, he was painting with a method called “Impasto”. The impasto method allows for the artist to lay much more paint on the canvas than usual. In consequence, the artist can play with more nuances of light and add a more expressive look.

Van Gogh used color as a way to convey emotions and thoughts. He used color not to describe reality as he saw it, but as he thought it could be felt and experienced. Van Gogh experimented a lot with synthetic and natural pigments. He often sought out to find the most saturated tones for his paintings.

Wheatfield with Crows, 1890. Van Gogh Wiki Media Commons

Taking A Closer Look:

This incredible painting is one of the most celebrated works of art in history. It measures at 29" x 36" and it was created in 1889. Van Gogh painted The Starry Night during his 12-month stay at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum.

“Starry Night” Vincent Van Gogh 1889 Wikimedia Commons

It is currently exhibited at the MOMA in New York.

In his letters written to his brother, Van Gogh talked about this work being a “study of the night”. He was looking for a way to represent the glowing sky at night. He was deliberately stylizing this painting more than usual.

“These are exaggerations from the point of view of arrangement, their lines are contorted like those of ancient woodcuts” (805, c. 20 September 1889).

Van Gogh was heavily influenced by traditional Japanese prints.

Unlike some of Van Gogh’s most famous landscapes, this piece was not done outdoors.

Van Gogh constructed this piece from a mixture of observations, his imagination and symbolism.

The church painted in the town is one with a steeple reminiscent of those in his native country of Netherlands, not France. His paintings appear to have movement within them thanks to the illusion created from the quick brushstrokes and the utilization of thick paint. He also most probably had designated brushes for specific colors to keep him momentum quick and his colors clean. The tree might appear to be black but it is actually made up of dark green and red. These two complimentary colors appear extremely dark when mixed and put next to one another. Every brush stroke that Van Gogh laid on the canvas was extremely precise. Because he did not use any medium, his colors always remained as saturated as possible and thus giving more vibrancy to the final look.

One can learn so much from Van Gogh. He was a very skilled painter that mastered the placement and utilization of color. His paintings are so strikingly beautiful that one can forget that Van Gogh hid messages in his works. He was a very subtle storyteller that transmitted messages trough objects, sceneries, colors etc. Analyzing Van Gogh is an extremely enriching experience as he was truly a complete painter.

Thank you for reading.

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Montreal based since 1985, we provide businesses with high quality art supplies. Take a look through our blog to learn more about art materials, history & more!

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