Vincent van Gogh

Parkstone International
3
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The incarnation of the myth of a cursed artist, Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is a legend who became a reference for modern art. An Expressionist during the Post-Impressionist movement, his art was misunderstood during his lifetime. In Holland, he partook in the Dutch realist painting movement by studying peasant characters. Anxious and depressed, Vincent van Gogh produced more than 2000 artworks, yet sold only one in his lifetime. A self-made artist, his work is known for its rough and emotional beauty and is amongst the most popular in the art market today.
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Vincent van Gogh was one of the great post-impressionist masters and, because of the power and accessibility of his work and the tragedy and dedication of his life, he became a legend as an artist. He was born on March 30, 1853 in the Netherlands.The son of a Dutch parson, he was largely self-taught as an artist. Ascetic and intensely spiritual, he viewed art as almost a religious vocation. He painted incessantly and left a vast volume of work but sold only one picture during his lifetime. In 1888, van Gogh went to Arles in search of the glowing sunlight, there breaking from the somber, earthbound realism of his early style to the brilliant color, passionate thick brushstrokes, and incredible joyousness of his later style. Some of these paintings include: The Yellow House, Bedroom in Arles, The red vineyard, and paul Gauguin's Armchair. Although he suffered a mental breakdown in his later years, he still went on to paint masterpieces like Starry Night and The Sower. On July 27, 1890 he is said to have shot himself. Many believe this was a suicide act, but others maintain it was accidental or that he was shot by neighboring kids with a "malfunctioning" gun. The gun was never found. His letters to his brother Theo are a moving and fascinating account of his working processes and the agony and drama of his daily life. Van Gogh was buried on July 30 in the municipal cemetery of Auvers-sur-Oise at a funeral attended by his brother, Theo van Gogh, who died six months later, on January 25, 1891. They are buried side by side.

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Publisher
Parkstone International
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Published on
Feb 14, 2014
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Pages
512
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ISBN
9781783105137
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / European
Art / General
Art / Individual Artists / Monographs
Art / Subjects & Themes / Landscapes & Seascapes
Art / Techniques / Painting
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Vincent van Gogh’s life and work are so intertwined that it is hardly possible to observe one without thinking of the other. Van Gogh has indeed become the incarnation of the suffering, misunderstood martyr of modern art, the emblem of the artist as an outsider. An article, published in 1890, gave details about van Gogh’s illness. The author of the article saw the painter as “a terrible and demented genius, often sublime, sometimes grotesque, always at the brink of the pathological.” Very little is known about Vincent’s childhood. At the age of eleven he had to leave “the human nest”, as he called it himself, for various boarding schools. The first portrait shows us van Gogh as an earnest nineteen year old. At that time he had already been at work for three years in The Hague and, later, in London in the gallery Goupil & Co. In 1874 his love for Ursula Loyer ended in disaster and a year later he was transferred to Paris, against his will. After a particularly heated argument during Christmas holidays in 1881, his father, a pastor, ordered Vincent to leave. With this final break, he abandoned his family name and signed his canvases simply “Vincent”. He left for Paris and never returned to Holland. In Paris he came to know Paul Gauguin, whose paintings he greatly admired. The self-portrait was the main subject of Vincent’s work from 1886c88. In February 1888 Vincent left Paris for Arles and tried to persuade Gauguin to join him. The months of waiting for Gauguin were the most productive time in van Gogh’s life. He wanted to show his friend as many pictures as possible and decorate the Yellow House. But Gauguin did not share his views on art and finally returned to Paris. On 7 January, 1889, fourteen days after his famous self-mutilation, Vincent left the hospital where he was convalescing. Although he hoped to recover from and to forget his madness, but he actually came back twice more in the same year. During his last stay in hospital, Vincent painted landscapes in which he recreated the world of his childhood. It is said that Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the side in a field but decided to return to the inn and went to bed. The landlord informed Dr Gachet and his brother Theo, who described the last moments of his life which ended on 29 July, 1890: “I wanted to die. While I was sitting next to him promising that we would try to heal him. [...], he answered, ‘La tristesse durera toujours (The sadness will last forever).’”
For Claude Monet the designation ‘impressionist’ always remained a source of pride. In spite of all the things critics have written about his work, Monet continued to be a true impressionist to the end of his very long life. He was so by deep conviction, and for his Impressionism he may have sacrificed many other opportunities that his enormous talent held out to him. Monet did not paint classical compositions with figures, and he did not become a portraitist, although his professional training included those skills. He chose a single genre for himself, landscape painting, and in that he achieved a degree of perfection none of his contemporaries managed to attain. Yet the little boy began by drawing caricatures. Boudin advised Monet to stop doing caricatures and to take up landscapes instead. The sea, the sky, animals, people, and trees are beautiful in the exact state in which nature created them – surrounded by air and light. Indeed, it was Boudin who passed on to Monet his conviction of the importance of working in the open air, which Monet would in turn transmit to his impressionist friends. Monet did not want to enrol at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He chose to attend a private school, L’Académie Suisse, established by an ex-model on the Quai d’Orfèvres near the Pont Saint-Michel. One could draw and paint from a live model there for a modest fee. This was where Monet met the future impressionist Camille Pissarro. Later in Gleyre’s studio, Monet met Auguste Renoir Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille. Monet considered it very important that Boudin be introduced to his new friends. He also told his friends of another painter he had found in Normandy. This was the remarkable Dutchman Jongkind. His landscapes were saturated with colour, and their sincerity, at times even their naïveté, was combined with subtle observation of the Normandy shore’s variable nature. At this time Monet’s landscapes were not yet characterized by great richness of colour. Rather, they recalled the tonalities of paintings by the Barbizon artists, and Boudin’s seascapes. He composed a range of colour based on yellow-brown or blue-grey. At the Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 Monet presented a series of paintings for the first time: seven views of the Saint-Lazare train station. He selected them from among twelve he had painted at the station. This motif in Monet’s work is in line not only with Manet’s Chemin de fer (The Railway) and with his own landscapes featuring trains and stations at Argenteuil, but also with a trend that surfaced after the railways first began to appear. In 1883, Monet had bought a house in the village of Giverny, near the little town of Vernon. At Giverny, series painting became one of his chief working procedures. Meadows became his permanent workplace. When a journalist, who had come from Vétheuil to interview Monet, asked him where his studio was, the painter answered, “My studio! I’ve never had a studio, and I can’t see why one would lock oneself up in a room. To draw, yes – to paint, no”. Then, broadly gesturing towards the Seine, the hills, and the silhouette of the little town, he declared, “There’s my real studio.”Monet began to go to London in the last decade of the nineteenth century. He began all his London paintings working directly from nature, but completed many of them afterwards, at Giverny. The series formed an indivisible whole, and the painter had to work on all his canvases at one time. A friend of Monet’s, the writer Octave Mirbeau, wrote that he had accomplished a miracle. With the help of colours he had succeeded in recreating on the canvas something almost impossible to capture: he was reproducing sunlight, enriching it with an infinite number of reflections. Alone among the impressionists, Claude Monet took an almost scientific study of the possibilities of colour to its limits; it is unlikely that one could have gone any further in that direction.
Picasso was born a Spaniard and, so they say, began to draw before he could speak. As an infant he was instinctively attracted to artist’s tools. In early childhood he could spend hours in happy concentration drawing spirals with a sense and meaning known only to himself. At other times, shunning children’s games, he traced his first pictures in the sand. This early self-expression held out promise of a rare gift. Málaga must be mentioned, for it was there, on 25 October 1881, that Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born and it was there that he spent the first ten years of his life. Picasso’s father was a painter and professor at the School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Picasso learnt from him the basics of formal academic art training. Then he studied at the Academy of Arts in Madrid but never finished his degree. Picasso, who was not yet eighteen, had reached the point of his greatest rebelliousness; he repudiated academia’s anemic aesthetics along with realism’s pedestrian prose and, quite naturally, joined those who called themselves modernists, the non-conformist artists and writers, those whom Sabartés called “the élite of Catalan thought” and who were grouped around the artists’ café Els Quatre Gats. During 1899 and 1900 the only subjects Picasso deemed worthy of painting were those which reflected the “final truth”; the transience of human life and the inevitability of death. His early works, ranged under the name of “Blue Period” (1901-1904), consist in blue-tinted paintings influenced by a trip through Spain and the death of his friend, Casagemas. Even though Picasso himself repeatedly insisted on the inner, subjective nature of the Blue Period, its genesis and, especially, the monochromatic blue were for many years explained as merely the results of various aesthetic influences. Between 1905 and 1907, Picasso entered a new phase, called “Rose Period” characterised by a more cheerful style with orange and pink colours. In Gosol, in the summer of 1906 the nude female form assumed an extraordinary importance for Picasso; he equated a depersonalised, aboriginal, simple nakedness with the concept of “woman”. The importance that female nudes were to assume as subjects for Picasso in the next few months (in the winter and spring of 1907) came when he developed the composition of the large painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Just as African art is usually considered the factor leading to the development of Picasso’s classic aesthetics in 1907, the lessons of Cézanne are perceived as the cornerstone of this new progression. This relates, first of all, to a spatial conception of the canvas as a composed entity, subjected to a certain constructive system. Georges Braque, with whom Picasso became friends in the autumn of 1908 and together with whom he led Cubism during the six years of its apogee, was amazed by the similarity of Picasso’s pictorial experiments to his own. He explained that: “Cubism’s main direction was the materialisation of space.” After his Cubist period, in the 1920s, Picasso returned to a more figurative style and got closer to the surrealist movement. He represented distorted and monstrous bodies but in a very personal style. After the bombing of Guernica during 1937, Picasso made one of his most famous works which starkly symbolises the horrors of that war and, indeed, all wars. In the 1960s, his art changed again and Picasso began looking at the art of great masters and based his paintings on ones by Velázquez, Poussin, Goya, Manet, Courbet and Delacroix. Picasso’s final works were a mixture of style, becoming more colourful, expressive and optimistic. Picasso died in 1973, in his villa in Mougins. The Russian Symbolist Georgy Chulkov wrote: “Picasso’s death is tragic. Yet how blind and naïve are those who believe in imitating Picasso and learning from him. Learning what? For these forms have no corresponding emotions outside of Hell. But to be in Hell means to anticipate death. The Cubists are hardly privy to such unlimited knowledge”.
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