Monday, March 31, 2014

The Avant-Garde Vincent Van Gogh

Holland-born artist Vincent van Gogh may have become one of the most recognizable artists of his age, but it took several decades before his art would take a turn toward the avant-garde. It wasn't until his thirties that he would move to Paris and meet other disruptive artists like Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrc (among others).

Before then, well into his late twenties, van Gogh worked as an art dealer with his uncle. And while he was initially happy and successful with the business of art, he unexpectedly lost interest in it. For him, the profession lacked the sense of purpose that he craved. So he turned to theology instead.

It didn't take long before he found it wasn't a good fit there either. Despite his enthusiasm as a missionary, he failed several program exams and felt his development as a preacher had stalled. Although he was successful as a missonary, the church rejected his practices to embrace poverty and live in the same impoverished squalor as the coal miners he served.

His empathy for the world around him became an art form. 

When van Gogh left the church embittered, he turned toward art as a remedy for his discouragement. He began simply by drawing the poverty around him. And while some historians see this shift as a rejection of faith, his art became central to religious expression and self-reformation.

He painted everyday life, with an aim toward capturing the human soul as he saw it in families barely getting by, a beggar in the street, a peasant girl who feels compassion for a distressed and underfed cow. From simple drawings, he expanded into paint and eventually enrolled in the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.

His first major work, Potato Eaters, represents the cumulation of his work after five years. But despite how great his work would later be seen, the world had little interest then.

Van Gogh might have continued on like this if it wasn't for his brother. Theo van Gogh encouraged him to give up the dark, earthy tones of poverty and pay attention to the growing interest in Impressionism with its bright and vivd colors. The next year he would move to Paris.

It was in an art colony after Paris where he would make his famous works. 

His transformation in Paris was profound. He applied his paint thick. His brush strokes became big and bold. His approach was literal in that he painted everything around him. But it often sought to capture something else, an attempt to look behind the veil of his terrestrial journey.

It seems somewhat remarkable and yet impossible that van Gogh would only produce about 900 paintings over the course of ten years. Many of them were shown. Most received positive reviews. Almost none of them sold.

Even when he retreated with his friend Gauguin to an artist colony in Arles, his most productive and creative period was marred by his physical decline and mental illness. While some attribute his mental state to the work he produced, it may be related to his steadfast belief that he was nearing the end of his earthly journey. He frequently said he was compelled to paint but his utter surrender to the work would also aggravate his mental condition.

In the end, he chose to run toward the finality of existence rather than walk to it. Some might even speculate his early paintings suggest an old man might reach the stars was a only foreshadow to his later work, which shows the same idea from a dizzying and new point of view — his own.

The Work Of Van Gogh Bends Time At 9.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

It took neatly 20 years after his death that the world would rediscover what an artistic genius van Gogh had become. Most people who admired his work would never meet the man. He was never invited to attend his best shows. They were all held in memorial.

Today, his work is housed in museums all over the world. One of the most famous is the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which has managed to assemble a permanent collection of more than 200 pieces. Another amazing site to visit is Vincent van Gogh - The Letters, which includes all of his letters to his brother and artist friends. It's an amazing collection that took more than 15 years of research. You can also find an impressive collection of van Gogh prints as part of the vintage wall art collection at
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