Main conventional art principles, without completely abandoning those

Main Discussion Post-Impressionism (or Neo-impressionism) took inspiration from the principles of impressionism, developing the movement out of the impressionist period and the works of Manet, but rejecting its limitations, and embracing the canvas of their own minds.  Artists often using avant-garde methods to expand the prior medium, breaking away from conventional art principles, without completely abandoning those prior art principles. Post-Impressionists are renounced for expressing a unique perspective of the world around them, seemingly expressing how their specific mood disorders affected their perspective of the world in their work. By continuing to use real-life subject matter, such as nature and people, but created their own impression of that subject often with thick paint; vivid, bright, unnatural colour pallets; and geometric forms, they distorted reality into a secondary dream (or nightmare) scape. As Van Gogh wrote in a letter to Theo van Gogh in 1888, Post-impressionists try “…to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green.”   This movement has influenced generations of artists, often being considered the root of modern art. Therefore, the term “Post-Impressionism” doesn’t seem to give justice to such an influential, avant-garde art-form, but, as the art critic, Rewald, said “the term ‘post-impressionism’ is not a very precise one, though a very convenient one”   The first artist I will be addressing in this dissertation is Vincent Van-Gogh, his tumultuous life, subsequent death, and infamous act of self-harm, which has been an object of fascination for art historians, fanatics, and navies alike, since the 19th Century.Van-Gogh (1853-1890) took the pain of his tragic life to create beautiful, critically-acclaimed oil paintings, altering the universe around him to create thought-provoking pieces such as “The-Starry-night” (1889), “Vase-with Fifteen-Sunflowers” (1888), “Café-Terrace-at night” (1888) etc.Although he wasn’t acclaimed in his time, artists now look to him as a pivotal artist of the post-impressionist/ expressionist period.    After several, severe disappointments throughout his short life, in the different careers he’d tried his hand, he was somewhat shaped by it, failing as an art dealer, a teacher, a preacher, etc.  As far as he was concerned, he’d never find meaning or a definitive purpose, outside of art.  Although Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime, Theo Van Gogh, his younger brother, supported him throughout his life and journey of discovery, sustaining his life as a painter by providing emotional and financial support. Van Gogh’s mood swings, recurring obsession with death, and psychotic insights can be seen in many of his works, adding another layer of insight within the shades of blue, orange, and yellow. As Van Gogh had written in his diary, “To understand blue you must first understand yellow and orange.”  However, the most widely known fact about Van Gogh’s, is, when he took the razor kept on his small dressing table, slashing off his left earlobe that cold December night, in 1888, in the French city of Arles.  The most widely accepted theory is that Van Gogh cut his ear off in a fit of mania after getting into a fight with his friend, Paul Gaugin, and gave it to a local prostitute as a token of affection or a religious gesture, giving Van Gogh the infamous reputation of the classic tortured, unhinged artist. The most commonly accepted story about the most famous ear in art and how it was cut off.But, this account of events is covered in much more inconsistencies that first appears. Hans Kaufmann, an author of “Pakt des Schweigens” (or Pact of Silence) reinforces this hypothesis stating in a news interview, “the official version is largely based on Gauguin’s accounts, containing… inconsistencies and there are plenty of hints by both artists that the truth is much more complex than the story we’ve all known.”  Van Gogh is known as the tortured artist who mutilated himself horrendously, but these historians suggest that it was Gauguin who had sliced his ear off during their confrontation prior. Although he hadn’t been present for the act, he had a highly detailed account (while Van Gogh was unconscious) raising concerns about what really happened that night in the yellow house that December night in 1888, suggesting he was in fact to blame.This is intriguing because it begs the question: did the image of the tortured artist give Gauguin an out? How does this concept help/hider artists who do suffer mental issues?  And, did this mysterious charade help Van Gogh became so prominent in the art consciousness? Now Edvard Munch, his representation of emotion during his life as an artist, from 1863 to 1944, traversing the realms of his tortured psyche must be discussed as that produced his thought-provoking pieces. Munch’s most famous pieces include Death in the sickroom (1893), The Scream (1893), Anxiety (1894), and Kiss (1897).His early years consisted of the three motifs, death, insanity, and loss, with the penitence and piety of Lutheran, but his final years were spent in recluse, dying of pneumonia, complicated by cardiovascular disease in 1944.Stenersen stated that later in life, Munch developed an incredibly intense relationship to his paintings, talking about them like they were alive. When offered substantial amounts of money for a painting, he didn’t want to part with them, as, “I must have some of my friends on the walls.”Although Munch was always attached to his paintings, after his illness in 1908, they appeared to replace his relationships with people. Munch spent the morning pre-death working on a portrait of his old friend from his Oslo Bohemian days, Hans Jaeger, who’d died over 30 years earlier, showing his obsession with living vicariously in the past.Which could be because of his disrupted attachment period with his primary caregiver (his mother), making his fear of loss promote attachment to objects (his paintings).  After all, painting can’t hurt you, leave you, or die.Motifs of loss, despair, and death ran through the lives of both Munch and Van Gogh. But how do their works compare, bearing their respective history in mind? Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Munch (1863-1944) produced self-portraits throughout their lives. Van Gogh painted over 30 self-portraits from 1886 to 1889. His collection of self-portraits placed him among the most prolific self-portraitists of all time, using portraits to introspection and develop his skills as an artist in various mediums.Van Gogh’s portraits had notable craniofacial asymmetry whereas Munch’s portraits never portraying him smiling. Munch’s mouth is always turned downward, shoulders sagged, and in many paintings, he produces furrows on his forehead, appearing similar to Darwin’s description of “grief muscles.” Which is described as the action of specific facial muscles, that can reveal falsified sadness on the faces of individuals deceptively pleading for the return of a missing relative who they recently had murdered.” Which could be the equation equalling pieces mainly consisting of motifs of angst, anxiety and death. His facial construction somewhat mirroring Darwin’s description of grief muscles, as he lived in the grief shadow of the deaths of his brother, sister, and mother. Although he grieved for them, his relationships with other women were shrouded by his most unfulfilled relationship with a woman, being the interrupted attachment to his mother because of her premature death. As indicated by his depictions of women and his series of depicting a dying or dead mother with a child near her bedside, evidentially shaping his relationship schema. Art AnalysisFigure 8, named “Self-Portrait in Hell” , originally entitled “Selvportrett I Helvvette” currently resides Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, depicting the motif of hedonism engulfing Munch in fire and angst.Whereas Figure 7, entitled “Self-Portrait with a bandage” , was executed in 1889, and currently resides at the Art Institute of Chicago. The portrait depicts the moments shortly after Van Gogh arrived from the hospital after his alleged fit of madness. Vincent was known for his manic behaviour, including episodes of depression, episodes of expansive and frenetic mood, and episodes of hallucinations.The respective dimensions of this painting are 655mm by 820mm and 410mm by 325mm.Both portraits consisted of the medium, Oil on artist’s board, mounted on cradled panel, which was often the medium of choice for post-impressionists. Edward Munch leaves nothing to ambiguity in this piece as the spiralling brushstrokes of hell illuminate him. Munch wants the viewer to feel the hedonistic hell he’s fallen into under the influence of Hans Jaeger, a nihilistic philosopher.   A man who had stated publicly his aim was to drive every member of his generation to corruption or suicide.  A philosophical argument that Munch chose the former and Van Gogh, the latter.In figure 8, Van Gogh emphasised the prominent presence of bandage (on what appears to be the wrong ear) shows the importance of the event to him, the observers’ eyes are drawn to it as it’s the only prominent part of the painting devoid of colour. Munch portrays himself surrounded by angst, but Van Gogh depicts himself melancholy and thoughtful at home. Van Gogh appears to question his position as an artist, a brother (after his brother’s engagement), and a friend (after Gauguin’s departure). Van Gogh is alone, looking off-frame, wearing an overcoat and hat. Is he showing that he feels out of place home without Paul Gauguin? Or is he cold and that’s what he was wearing?Van Gogh would often have painted from his mundane environment but shows an incredibly personalised use of brushwork that directly expresses an emotional attachment to subject from his inner mind. However, Munch adopted the abstract displaying his subdued hell.Edvard Munch believed “Disease, insanity, and death were the angels that attended his cradle, and since then have followed him throughout his life.” personified via the tones used. A “Self Portrait in hell” has a level of foreboding and imminent death/danger emulated by the abstract background painted with a controlled franticness creating an intense, uncertain atmosphere. Making the viewer thoughtful but somewhat disturbed and uncomfortable. The colour scale shifts from realms of orange to brown to reddish black, leaving a void of blackness for an obscured figure. Is it his sin? His hedonism? Or, the filth of humanity, personified?The dark orange-red-brown tones appear to give the skin a waxy tone. A red brush stroke clasps Munch’s neck like a wound or a noose… The clash of tones creates a light effect contributing to the picture’s eerie atmosphere.However, Van Gogh simply uses skin tones to express drained life, with his cheeks rosy from the cold December air apparent.The red/brown/orange tones emulate the sky of Munch’s most famous painting (“The Scream” 1893) is loosely translated from the torturous cries of hell into waves of colour. Munch chose to portray himself as a dark ruler of his own domain, making the flames and smoke his oxygen. This could refer to acceptance of his inner torment, or his refusal to take medication for his health, in fear they would dampen his emotions.  Munch stands naked, surrounded by a hell of (potentially) his own making. Alongside the psychological connotations of the situation, the artist doesn’t present himself as a helpless victim, cowering at the flames. But Munch presents himself as self-assured in his stance, almost as if he’s taking an official portrait.But Van Gogh appears somewhat drained, tired, and defeated as he as he re-enters his home, alone.Both artists look towards the right suggesting their interpretation of the traditional portrait position.Munch’s early work was lighter in tone than his mature pieces, largely influenced by the French Impressionists of the 1870s and 80s (e.g. Van Gogh), moving on to darker subjects in the later years of the 1880s.  Whereas Van Gogh adopted lighter tones as his work became more influenced by Persian art pieces. Both were extremely prolific and continued painting bright landscapes and milder portraits of family members and friends throughout their careers.The background of Van Gogh’s portrait depicts a blank canvas to the right of Van Gogh, could depict new beginnings or new art to come, appearing hopeful compared to Munch’s “Self Portrait in Hell”. Van Gogh’s Lost Print, of a Japanese print on Van Gogh’s left, shows his realm of artistic interest. “Geishas in a Landscape” by Sato Torakiyo (Figure 11), oddly depicted flipped horizontally. Manipulated to fit around van Gogh’s face, Mount Fuji and the geisha figures are to the left of him, depicting its importance to Van Gogh, in entirety.   “Geisha in landscape” is a poignant expression of personal and artistic anguish painted with “Self Portrait with a bandaged ear” at a very low period of Van Gogh’s life, less than a month after slicing his ear off after a violent quarrel with his friend the Paul Gauguin. But, why would he cut off his eat? Simply because of his brother’s engagement? Or, because of a heated argument without emotional release? Or was he simply unhinged? 

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