featuring VINCENT VAN GOGH
- Born 30 March 1853
- Place of Birth Zundert, Netherlands
- Died 29 July 1890 (aged 37)
- Place of Death Auvers-sur-Oise, France
- Education Anton Mauve
- Known for Painting, drawing
- Notable work(s) Starry Night, Sunflowers, Bedroom in Arles, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, Sorrow
- Movement Post-Impressionism
Arguably no other artist has captured people’s imaginations like Vincent van Gogh. His life and work continue to fascinate. Few other modern artists before Andy Warhol (with the possible exceptions of Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp) have created a body of work that is so inseparable from the facts and myths of the artist’s life and persona. Van Gogh’s unbridled passion and ecstatic contemplation of life, nature, and art, his intense spirituality and religious zeal, his generous, ardent, and sincere disposition, and especially, his violent and enigmatic illnesses and suicide at age thirty-seven have all contributed to powerful and often inaccurate myths that can obscure a clear understanding of the important painter.
Van Gogh was a professional failure during his lifetime. Although enormously respected by fellow artists and exhibited in several shows, in his brief but dynamic ten-year career as an artist, he sold very few paintings to someone other than his brother. The public was almost entirely disinterested in the man who we now consider a genius–outside a small circle of artists, critics, friends, doctors, and family members, he was virtually unknown and unrecognized as anything other than a lonely and ridiculous madman, a failure at every enterprise he pursued so vigorously.
The varied and critical period between 1886–the year of the last Impressionist exhibit in Paris at the Independents Salon–and 1905, which marked the beginning of Expressionism with the Fauves, is the period generally lumped together under the moniker of “post-Impressionism.” Post-Impressionist artists often had very different aims, styles, and concerns, but artists as different as Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, the sculptor Auguste Rodin, the Pointillist Georges Seurat, Symbolists Odilon Redon and Edvard Munch, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Gustav Klimt shared an overwhelming interest in the search for new forms. In most cases, trained as Impressionists, these artists were all resolved to transcend what they saw as the passive optical, perceptual recording of the Impressionist painters with active, emotional and intellectual expression of conceptual (as opposed to purely visual or perceptual) ideas and theories. Although frustratingly disorganized, the post- Impressionist period was an absolutely pivotal time of tremendous flux and change that contains the first real glimmerings of modernist thought–the triumph of conceptualism and antinaturalism over optical observation and rendering, and a reweighing and reconsideration of the dichotomies of intellect and emotion, thought and expression.
Despite the tremendous effect Impressionism had on the structure of the art world, it was still a style based on optical observation and the rendering of light effects through paint. Post-Impressionism is significant primarily for the move beyond optical consideration as a primary vehicle for artistic depiction and expression. The work of pioneers like Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, Toulouse- Lautrec, Redon, Munch, and Ensor is only outweighed by the extraordinary influence their art had on the founders of modernism proper in the early twentieth century. Modernism as a term describes and encompasses three fundamental changes in artistic attitude, practice, and culture precipitated by wide-ranging socio-cultural, political, and scientific developments:
- radical changes and innovation in artistic form and content,
- a new conception of the legacy and role of artistic tradition and subsequently, the emergence of a distinct, cohesive, and ideologically persuasive avant-garde culture heavily influenced by non-Western culture, and
- a new understanding of physical reality in the wake of significant scientific and technological discoveries. These new attitudes are first recognizable in a real, concrete way during the post-Impressionist period.
So if post-Impressionism doesn’t exactly make sense in terms of stylistic categories or actual visual output, it can be considered a cohesive movement in terms of its underlying conceptual foundation, especially that of Symbolism, and its opening of issues central to later modernist exploration. Vincent van Gogh is responsible for spearheading many of these formal advances.
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