19th Century Art--5

[ Introduction ] [Realism ] [ Early Impressionists ] [ More Impressionists ] [ Post-Impressionists ]

The Post-Impressionists, like the Impressionists before them, went off in new directions after 1870. France's stunning defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the orgy of violence that accompanied the Commune led French artists to "create" a "new world" and "meaning" in their art (Witt, et al. 361). Nothing from the past seemed to make any sense. The artists turned increasingly to art for its own sake (ars gratia artis.)

The year 2003 marked the 150th anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh's birth (1853-1890) and was celebrated in a number of museums in The Netherlands. The various retrospectives acknowledge the artist's indebtedness to such masters as Rembrandt, Delacroix, Millet, and countless others whom he mentions in his letters (Riding 1). Although not conventionally religious, Van Gogh retained a strong sense of God's presence in nature (Riding 12).
Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) felt oppressed by the misery, inhumanity, suffering, and materialism of urban life and moved to Arles in the South of France (Witt, et al. 362) in 1888. There, he depicted familiar elements of nature in a way that would intensify the viewer's experience. He wrote to his brother Theo that he went South "looking for a different light" hoping that "observing nature under a brighter sky might give...a more accurate idea of the way the Japanese feel and draw'" (Schjeldahl 72). He completed 200 paintings in Arles. To create his desired effect, he used bold colors and "vigorous brush strokes," striving to delve below the surface of the familiar. Van Gogh moved beyond both Realism and Impressionism. To your left, The Night Café, which Van Gogh painted in 1888. Schjeldahl calls this painting "acrid," "harrowing," and "torrid" (73).

image source < http://www.impressionist-art-gallery.com/van_gogh_reproduction.html >


Van Gogh invited Paul Gauguin to join him in Arles, where they lived, according to Peter Schjeldahl's review of Martin Gayford's The Yellow House: Van Gogh and Gauguin, Nine Turbulent Weeks, a tumultuous but artistically rich time of collaboration and competition, climaxed with the sensational episode when Van Gogh "razors off all or part of his left ear...and ceremoniously presents it to a prostitute named Rachel" (Schjeldahl 70). Van Gogh and Gauguin painted and exchanged portraits of one another. One of Van Gogh's masterpieces from the Arles sojourn is The Bedroom at Arles, which he completed in 1889. According to Schjeldahl, yellow was Van Gogh's favorite color.

image source < http://www.mystudios.com/art/post/van-gogh/van-gogh-sower-1888.htm >

Studying and painting in Paris in the 1880's before his move to Arles, Van Gogh came under the influence of the Impressionists and began to experiment with light and and color. He also, like many of his contemporaries, was impressed with the Japanese prints that exercised such an influence on European art and artists in the 19th century. He remained in contact with the artistic currents taking place in Paris even after he moved to Arles. In these years, up until his suicide in 1890, Van Gogh's work increasingly reflects his own growing mental anguish (Riding 12). He wrote to his brother Theo of his "'sadness, extreme loneliness'" (Riding 12).


Sunflowers 1888 (left) and Starry Night 1889 (right)

image source < http://www.artchive.com/artchive/V/van_gogh/sunflowers.jpg.html >
image source < http://www.moma.org/docs/collection/paintsculpt/c58.htm >

In February, 2012, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presented an exhibition of
rarely seen in the US Van Gogh works entitled "Van Gogh up Closes."
To learn about this exhibit and Van Gogh's fascination with "the natural landscape,"
follow link and then click on slide show; included in the NY Times article,
"Van Gogh: In the Eye of His Storms,"art critic Roberta Smith refers to
the influence of then recently discovered Japanese prints had on Van Gogh.

One last thought on Vincent Van Gogh. Recently, I listened to an NPR book review of
Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore, based, among other things, on the premise that
Van Gogh was murdered on that fateful day in Auvers, 1890, when most accounts term
his death a suicide. Moore's foray into magical realism did not work for me, but
many of the reviewers on Amazon loved it. You decide.You could certainly learn
something about the Parisian art scene in the 1890s.

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) spent a significant part of his painting career in Tahiti, far from the materialism and misery that tormented Van Gogh, although the two men lived and painted together in Arles for several months. One version of their friendship was that Gauguin hoped to be able to take advantage of his friendship with Vincent Van Gogh to get Theo Van Gogh to publicize and/or market his works. Nevertheless, Gauguin's paintings departed from new renderings of familiar subjects; rather, his exotic subject matter led him to innovations in style and technique. He described his thoughts to a friend,"'undulating horizontal lines; harmonies of orange and blue, united by the yellows and purples...'" (Witt, et al. 364). He painted Femmes de Tahiti in 1891.

image source < http://www.oir.ucf.edu/wm/paint/gaugin/ >

Apparently, Gauguin was a pretty unsavory character, according to art critic Holland Carter, "But then there's the art. Gauguin's South Seas paintings, with their fragrant, crushed-fruit colors--guava yellows, lime greens, melon pinks--and their opium-trance scenes of of a tropical Eden, are addictively devourable" (Carter B19). Not an Impressionist, Gauguin was, however, invited by Dégas and Pissarro to participate in their 1879 exhibition. Soon after, Gauguin ditched his family, quit his day job, and went first to Brittany, then to the Caribbean, then to Tahiti where he completed his signature canvases. On the left is Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch.

image source < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Gauguin >

In 1889, before he went to Tahiti, and after his stint in Arles, Gauguin spent time among the peasants of Brittany, where he painted The Yellow Christ, seeking to portray the "simple, direct faith of country people..." (Janson 332). For Gauguin, ...[m]odeling and perspective have given way to flat, simplified shapes outlined heavily and black..." (332). In this painting he re-creates "both the imagined reality of the Crucifixion and the trancelike rapture of the peasant women" (332). "In deeply Roman Catholic Brittany...[Gauguin]...went native," according to Holland Carter (B22). Two years later (1891,) he set off for Tahiti. In Martin Gayford's biography of the time Van Gogh and Gauguin spent together in Arles, Gauguin, "literally jumps off the page..." a "raffish spirit..." (Schjeldahl 74).

image source < http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gaugin/ >


Paul Cézanne (1836-1906) "distrusted the implicit subjectivism and emotionalism of Van Gogh and Gauguin.... He wanted to make art universal and independent, timeless, and free..." (Witt, et al. 364). Like Gauguin, he favored bright, bold colors; unlike the Impressionists, who remained fascinated with the ephemeral and transient, he gave every object in his paintings weight and volume (364). Perspective virtually disappears, as seen in Still Life with Fruit, which he painted over the course of 1879-1882. His style was too much for many of his contemporaries, and he could not secure entry to the Salon. To his death, Manet could not abide Cézanne's innovative works.

image source < http://www.abcgallery.com/C/cezanne/cezanne.html >

The Bather (1885-1887 )

According to art historian Meyer Schapiro, quoted by Nichas Pioch in his WebMuseum, Cezanne's The Bather, presently a star attraction in New York's Museum of Modern Art, is "a statue in a landscape; not of a bather but a man in thought. Completely absorbed in himself, he welded to his surroundings.... His vertical form rests on a world of horizontal bands." Meyer continues, The body is not stylized nor reduced, but reconstructed scrupulously according to an ideal of harmony and strength." In a 2009 exhibition, "Cezanne and Beyond," an art critic comments, "Cezanne is the father of us all." The exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art does not include The Bather, but it does pay fulsome tribute to Cezanne's towering influence on the young artists of the early 20th century. Included in the exhibit were works of Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti to name just three.

image source < http://www.dl.ket.org/webmuseum/wm/paint/auth/cezanne/bath/bather/index.htm >
To see a slide show of the exhibit, visit
< http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/03/06/arts/0306-CEZA_index.html >

The Plain by Mt. Victoire (1882-1885)

image source < http://www.abcgallery.com/C/cezanne/cezanne.html >

As you can see in The Card Players (1890-1892,) 19th century artists like Cézanne had made the shift from "historical, mythological and religious subjects to everyday life..." (Cohen B1). Cézanne chose his models from the street and village, at times using his own wife as model. Indeed, she sat for "27 oil portraits" (B6).

image source < http://www.abcgallery.com/C/cezanne/cezanne.html >

Paul Cézanne painted his wife, Hortense, 26 times; follow link below
for interesting article and images of his portraits of his wife.

< http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/arts/design/madame-czanne-at-the-metropolitan-museum.html?_r=0 >

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Background: Monet's "Rouen Cathedral." Online available.
< http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism/Monet.html >

Cohen, Patricia. "Author Gives Voice to Artists' Silent Muses, Their Wives." The New York Times, September 4, 2008.

Cotter, Holland. "The Self-Invented Artist." The New York Times: Weekend Arts, February 25, 2011.

Delahunt, Michael. "ELBOW." Art Encyclopedia. Art Lex. Online available.
< http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ >

Janson, H. W. History of Art. Englewood Cliffs: Prentie-Hall, Inc., 1963.

King, Ross. The Judgment of Paris. New York: Walker & Company, 2006.

Kimmelman, Michael. "Cézanne Country Rises Up Against French Rail Plan."
The New York Times, May 14, 2009.

"Paul Gauguin." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Online available.
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Gauguin >

Pioch, Nicholas. "Paul Cezanne." WebMuseum, Paris. Online available.
< http://www.dl.ket.org/webmuseum/wm/paint/auth/cezanne/bath/bather/index.htm >

Riding, Alan. . "Glimpses into van Gogh's Imagination." The New York Times. Wed., March 12, 2003.

Rosenberg, Karen. "Maverick, You Cast a Giant Shadow." The New York Times WeekendArts.
March 6, 2009.

Schjeldahl, Peter. "Different Strokes." The New Yorker. February 5, 2007.

Smith, Roberta. "Conjuror of Ethereal Mysteries." The New York Times. March 1, 2002.

Tansey, Richard and Fred Kleiner. Gardner's Art through the Ages, vol. ii, 10th edition.
Fort Worth, et al.: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996.

Witt, Mary Ann Frese, et al. The Humanities, vol. ii, 5th edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997.