Monday, August 27, 2012

Van Gogh in Ottawa V - 1

Vincent moved to Auvers-sur-Oise in May 1890.  The close proximity to Paris brought the influence of the avant-garde into focus.  This spurred him on to create even more distinctive works of his own.  His colour and brushwork were further developed.  He painted more extreme close ups and extraordinary viewpoints.  He used the double square canvas size more frequently.  He was well aware of how crucial his deliberate and thoughtful orchestration of colour and brushwork were for the ultimate effect of these compositions.  The result he could not achieve in drawing.  In the Salon des Independents in March Gaugin exclaimed "you're the only one there who thinks".

Van Gogh's work became even more decorative in the sense of using local tone and pattern.  Very modern.

Village with Figures


Ears of Wheat 

This is an extreme close up.  It is a flattened image like a tapestry.

Field with Poppies

Monet painted fields with poppies in his earlier work.  It was a significantly different approach even though both artists played with tilting and flattening and colour and brush work.

Going Wide

Undergrowth with Two Figures 1890

Using tree trunks, brush strokes, cloisonism, tilted planes.  Note the position of the foremost tree trunk.

Wheat Fields Near Auvers  1890

Close up detail, tilted plane, flattened decorative sky.

Wheat Stacks


Vines 1890

Wheat Fields with Crows 1890

For more insight read Van Goghs Letters alongside the corresponding paintings.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Van Gogh in Ottawa IV

The up close view that Vincent enjoyed from early in his painting career continued as part of still life studies, portraits, and cropped landscapes, and as part of his more integrated pieces.  In 1889 Van Gogh moved into the asylum at St. Remy just north of Arles.  Once settled he was very prolific.  The quiet allowed him the peace to focus.  Along with his compositional directions he worked on his brush strokes and his unique place amongst avant-garde artists of the time.

Iris, 1889, St. Remy

A garden close up with no horizon.  Note the black outlines and the vigorous brush work.  Mostly mid values.

Butterflys and Poppies

This up close garden scene feels very Japanese.

From the Window at St. Remy

Here we see the high horizon and the directional brush stroke alongside up close detail.  Balancing the up close with the distant is tricky and creates tension in this flattened scene.  The tilting of the planes is vigorous and multidirectional as a Cezanne.  More interest (maybe) and more tension.


This Cyprus portrait demonstrates organic brush strokes.  Here the sky competes with the foreground in the flattened, local tone painting.  Patterns on shapes.

Front and Back

Notice the value of the sky in this front and back image.

Trunks and Ivey

The Japanese print influence is apparent here as Van Gogh applied the cropped tree trunk as a veil.  There is a hint of a horizon in the upper tenth of this painting that is otherwise a tapestry of colour, brush strokes, and texture.

Cropped Tree Trunks

Trees and Dandelions

The use of cropped and exaggerated tree trunks became more prevalent along with the vigorous brushing and colour in a short picture box.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Van Gogh in Ottawa III

After almost 2 years in paris Vincent headed south at then end of February 1888.  He ended up in Arles.  Province.  There he found the light bright, intense, and clear.  Perfect for continuing his explorations begun in Paris.  And a chance to get away from the action and the influence of so many avant-garde artists.  Yet he stayed in touch to keep abreast of the latest trends and find his own niche by comparison.  Unique.  His admiration for things Japanese continued and he emphasized its modern quality along with his Impressionist influences and his own drive to be unique.

Amongst the most obvious devices he used were a high horizon, focus in both the detailed foreground and the distance, tilted planes for flattening the perspective and bring the foreground into focus, the use of tree trunks to both flatten and provide up close vs far away tension.  Then there was his brushwork and the basic lack of shadow.  These made the works more decorative in nature.  Today the approach is know as local tone painting.

Irises Front, Arles Back

The detail in the front carefully balanced with the town in back creating tension.  Notice the diagonals used to infer depth in the flattened image.  Such detail was the result of studies of simple motifs such as a clump of grass.

Clump of Grass

And from still life work.

Light on Light

Cropped and up close compared to standard still life of the era.

Very Japanese wood block like

Wheat Fields with Diagonal

The Sower

Wheat Field with Sheave of Wheat

Arles Hospital 1889

Here tree trunks are used.  Still most of the tree is shown.  Seems like two views at once, on from high above and one from lower down.

Notice the continuous development of his use of colour and his brush stroke.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Van Gogh Up Close II

Van Gogh was in Paris for almost 2 years from 1886 to 1888 (February).  The Impressionists influenced him to lighten his palette.  Vincent responded to their colour and paint application techniques by practicing with still life paintings.  Japanese wood block prints were very popular at the time and they had an influence on the Impressionists and Post Impressionists.  Van Gogh collected them and had more than 400 (But he was supposed to be destitute?  Maybe his brother Theo helped out).  He studied these prints.  After all, Vincent was quite educated and had an interesting intellect.

 Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige)

Japanese Flowering Plum (after Hiroshige)

From these studies Vincent began to employ a high (tilted) horizon along with foreground detail.  This seemed to suit his fascination with simple subject matter and its detail.  He often referred to such subject matter as "a dusty blade of grass".  Indeed he did paint clumps of grass alone, and tangles of vegetation as detailed foreground matter.  These ideas led to flattened picture planes.  Many of the Impressionists were also flattening the picture plane.  Perhaps the most notable were Cezanne and Gaugin.

Near vs Far

Here the foreground arrests the viewer's eye, then releases it into the background.  Notice that the sky, usually the source of light (therefore the lightest mass), is about the same value as the meadow.  This keeps the eye in the picture rather than falling out of the scene.

Near Undergrowth

In this painting the surface almost became an abstract tapestry wall just hinting at a horizon.  In other images he left the horizon out altogether.  Vincent continued to develop his expressive brush stroke while employing near pointalism and broken colour.  He was concerned about being unique and worked at it.

Quinces and Pears

In this still life the ground is tilted and activated.  The horizon is gone, the diagonal is employed and the brush work is alive.  Lots of tension.

His letters indicate that Vincent was continually invited to paint and discuss art with most of the avant-garde artists of the day.

In February of 1888 Vincent move to Arles in the south of France.  Apparently he desired a quieter environment to continue his studies and development.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Van Gogh in Ottawa I

We took a break from the construction project and headed to the National Gallery to see the Van Gogh Exhibition "Van Gogh Up Close".

Interesting.  I mean it, very interesting.  This exhibit and its education aspect was quite new to me.  The paintings were from the Paris (1886) through the Auvers-Sur-Oise (1890) period.  The focus was on the major influences on Van Gogh during the final years of his life and how he internalized them.  None of the common masterpieces such as Starry Night were shown.

Starry Night

What was shown were the paintings resulting from the influences in his life as he was exposed to the Impressionists (Monet, Pissaro, Renoir etc.) and post Impressionists (Cezanne, Gaugin, Seurat, Signac, Toulouse -Lautrec, Bernard etc.) in Paris.  He was astonished by their use of colour.  He lightened his palette.  He was influenced by the application of paint.  He worked on still lives to try out these ideas and develop his application of paint to be more unique.  He was concerned about being a significant artist.


Here Van Gogh worked on colour.


He lightened his palette and experimented with the application of paint.  Seurat's pointillism is evidenced in the background as short strokes of paint are used to provide broken colour and vibration (complements).  Notice how the table on the left side disappears into the background.  A modern approach.

Vase with Flowers

More stroke development.  No shadows.  The idea of local tone painting and decoration.  Post Impressionist idea.

If you look back into Van Gogh's earlier art you will pick up on his fascination with close up views of simple things such as books and shoes.  He took this tendency in addition to the colour and paint application experiments to images such as the following.

Apples an Basket

Here we see more exaggerated brush strokes and the elimination of the traditional background with attention to close details.  When you see this simple composition in real life the brush strokes are electrifying.  The painting jumps at you, yet displays a certain calm.

Finally, note the tilt on the basket giving it life as opposed to the static traditional image of a basket of fruit on a flat level surface.  Some Cezanne here.

Some of these influences came from other sources.  Next time I'll address some of these.