Friday, December 20, 2013

Gogh, Vincent van

White House at Night
oil on canvas
59.5 x 72.5 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

In May 1890, Gogh came to Auvers-sur-Oise and painted a series of pictures with houses. The Auvers period began with the hope of a new life and the recovery of health. This sense of hope was expressed in the pictures executed in May. In the June paintings, the motif of the home remained at the centre of the artist's attention, but its emotional range expanded greatly - from gloomy foreboding to conciliation. Since the emotion was expressed by Gogh not through the subject itself, but through his manipulation of the methods of painting, the structure of his compositions changed each time. In this painting a frozen quality prevails, and the chief lines are stable horizontals and verticals. They are needed to draw a house, but they can turn it into a prison. Gogh gives much attention to windows, the "eyes" of a home. The red splashes of the windows to the right are alarming; Gogh would draw a star, a sign of fate, at moments of greatest anguish. The White House at Night expresses the great psychological tension under which Gogh found himself.

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 spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers, traveling between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught for a time in England. One of his early aspirations was to become a pastor and from 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he began to sketch people from the local community.

In 1885, he painted his first major work The Potato Eaters. His palette at the time consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His work grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died at the age of 37 in 1890 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found). His work was then known to only a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still.

Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties. He completed 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. 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". "I dream of painting and then I paint my dream." "One of the most beautiful things by the painters of this century has been the painting of DARKNESS that is still COLOR." (Gogh)