Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gogh, Vincent van

Vase with Oleanders and Books
oil on canvas
60.3 x 73.7 cm (23 3/4 x 29 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

For Van Gogh, oleanders were joyous, life-affirming flowers that bloomed "riotously" and were "continually renewing" themselves. In this painting of August 1888, the flowers fill a majolica jug that Van Gogh used for other still lifes made in Arles. They are symbolically juxtaposed with Émile Zola's novel La joie de vivre.

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." (Gogh)
Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 - 1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty, and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. He loved art from an early age. He began to draw as a child, and he continued making drawings throughout the years leading to his decision to become an artist. He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during his last two years. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints. His work included self portraits, landscapes, still lifes of flowers, portraits and paintings of cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.

After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted. His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.
The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been a subject of speculation since his death. According to an art critic, his late works show an artist at the height of his ability, completely in control and "longing for concision and grace".