Van Gogh

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Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most famous, most respected artists of all time. Living in a state of mental chaos, the only happiness was found in his love for painting. It is through his works he establishes a since of inner peace with no limitations. By escaping to a world of imagination, Van Gogh expresses his artistic freedom by using a variety of unimaginable styles and creations.

Born in 1853 in the Netherlands in a small town named Zundert where Vincent Van Gogh was the oldest of six. When Van Gogh was young, he studied English, French, and German.

At the age of 15, Van Gogh left school whereupon he returned home to work as an apprentice at a branch gallery of an international art dealership known as Goupil and Cie. Van Gogh worked for the art dealership for seven years, traveling between London and Paris. During this time he visited galleries, art museums and became very attracted to pastoral themed schools, such as the Hague school of painting.

While he was working, he became very emotionally involved with studying the Bible. When he left from Goupil and Cie he was so influenced by the works of the Bible that he decided to become a clergyman.

In 1878 Van Gogh moved to southern Belgium ministering to the poor as a preacher. He gave his personal belongings away and became obsessed with painting. About two years later he decided he wanted to become an artist himself. In that decision he found he could unite his commitment to God with his interest in art.

Van Gogh believed that great artists could convey God's word. He greatly admired the works of Breton and Millet, who painted peasants in their daily life. One can see this influence in his painting, Potato Eaters. Dark, somber and somewhat crude, theses early works show evidence of Van Gogh's intense desire to express the misery and poverty of humanity as he saw it. He explained his views on the painting in a letter to Theo. 'I wanted to convey the idea that the people eating potatoes by the light of an oil lamp used the same hands with which they take food from the plate to work the land, that they have toiled with their hands--that they have earned their food by honest means' (Tilborgh). In attempt to convey life into the peasants', Van Gogh wanted to express the lack of refinement in the faces and hands, which were roughened by work. Van Gogh was struck by the 'ugliness' of country people and 'did not shrink from depicting coarse-looking faces in his rustic compositions, unrefined, or at best uncultivated figures, whose expressions seem to affirm that human beings are not always superior to animals' (Tilborgh).

Van Gogh moved to Antwerp, in 1885, where he became interested in Japanese woodblock prints. He found Antwerp to be exciting and invigorating. Van Gogh began to collect woodblock prints and later he created his own woodblock prints. The life changing affect that powerful color-expression had on Van Gogh it influenced him to leave for Paris, where he absorbed the theories of color expressed by the Impressionists and the Neo-Impressionists. Throughout his years in Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Auvers-sur-Oise where he was first introduced to ukiyo-e woodcuts, he used yellows, reds and greens that took over his canvases, then gradually, blues came to play a leading role in his art.

Van Gogh based his colors on the "color and complementary color" theories developed by the Neo-Impressionists, his tones differed from the pale, delicate effects. However, in his self-portrait, " (Plate 5: Vincent Van Gogh), he reproduced an impressive indigo blue, which Van Gogh used his personal style of pointillistic brushwork to juxtapose a variety of blues (Masayuki). Van Gogh translated Japanese color aesthetics, using paints from the West, to obtain a novel effect and to express a new tone. His use of color expression paved the way to Expressionism and 20th century art.

When he moved to Paris in 1887, Van Gogh became acquainted with the works of Monet and other Impressionist artists (Van Gogh biographies). He met Gaugin, Toulousse-Latrec, Bernard, and Pissarro and began experimenting with his own works. This changed van Gogh's style to a postimpressionist approach influenced by divisionism to steer away from darker characteristics. He also painted a series of self-portraits to demonstrate that it was possible to paint different portraits of the same person by capturing different aspects of the individual and emphasizing various characteristics to create diverse effects.

After only living a year in Paris, Van Gogh moved to Arles which is south of France. He invited Gaugin to accompany him and Gaugin agreed. Van Gogh painted vivid sunflowers to decorate Gaugin's room, but the peace that the country brought to Van Gogh was short lived. Van Gogh's old demons returned to torment him and his depression worsened as he argued with Gaugin (Vam Gogh biographies). In a fit of remorse or anger, Van Gogh cut a piece of his own ear off and was sent to a psychiatric institution in Sainte-Remy. Here he was diagnosed with hallucinations and mania. Van Gogh blamed the crisis on consuming too much alcohol.

His period of confinement was one of the most creative times of his life. He gained strength and stability from the secure, stable, and structured life of the asylum. He painted nearly 150 paintings during this time. Starry Night is a very well known masterpiece in which he wanted to paint a starry night as an example of working from the imagination of a night sky. According to J. van der Wolk's "Vincent Van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings", Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother, 'we may succeed in creating a more exciting and comforting nature than we can discern with a single glimpse of reality'. Van Gogh also mentioned as a joint aim 'a kind of painting giving greater consolation'. He felt as if the feeling of consolation should primarily be evoked by the color and design of representations of nature. The graphic style adopted by Van Gogh to achieve a nighttime effect in which surfaces and silhouettes would play a greater role than lines. Together the combination of style and religious overtones questions the realism of Van Gogh's studies of nature.

In 1890, Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in the chest standing in a wheat field in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris and died a few days later. He was 37 years old.

It is amazing that Van Gogh created such artwork in a small amount of time. It is unfortunate that this creative genius suffered extreme torment and ended his life so suddenly. Though his masterpieces live on carrying his name with high regards.