Category: The Creatives

Artist's ArtDNA® Breakdown:

Alluring Romantic-Introspective Thinker

Emotional, authentic and contemplative, philosophical, realistic and perceptive, van Gogh was an Alluring Romantic with a deep undertone of the Introspective Thinker. An idealist, painting for van Gogh was an expression of his innermost heart and soul. He believed in showing love to the downtrodden and living a life that was in accordance with his values. Known as quiet, thoughtful and imaginative, van Gogh also suffered from depression and felt deeply misunderstood by society. True to his emotional authenticity, he eschewed traditional painting techniques in favor of his unique, imaginative impressions.

Van Gogh had a particular passion and sympathy for the working class. The son of a Dutch Protestant pastor, van Gogh believed he had a religious calling to social justice and did missionary work in the slums of London and in the mining districts of Belgium. Van Gogh’s early works are heavily influenced by the changes in the social and environmental landscape of the Netherlands at that time — as industrialization encroached on both the pastoral settings of the country and on the livelihoods of the working poor, his depictions take interest in those who had little opportunity to change vocations in accordance with the times. He would return to the subject of the “noble peasant” throughout his lifetime.

I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

— Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh's Work:

Known equally for his artistic masterpieces as for his personal battles with mental health, van Gogh’s genius is often over shadowed by the more salacious parts of his personal history. While it is easy and even understandable to see in van Gogh’s aggressive swirling of paint, kinetic brushstrokes and unconventional color palettes evidence of his troubled mind, these attributable characteristics are also the very hallmarks of his revolutionary approach. Unlike his fellow Post-Impressionists, van Gogh exploited colors and distorted forms to express his emotions as he confronted nature. His insistence on the expressive value of color demanded that a corresponding expressiveness in the application paint also be developed. Moving the brush forcefully back and forth or at right angles, van Gogh transformed his canvases with corpuscular shapes and intense colors schemes.

 

Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily so as to express myself forcibly.

— Letter to Theodorus “Theo” van Gogh from Vincent van Gogh

The Potato Eaters, 1885
Van Gogh Museum
Woman Sewing, 1885-86 
P. and N. De Boer Foundation
Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, 1885-86
Van Gogh Museum

Drawing skeletons was a standard practice at the academies to develop an understanding of human anatomy. Painting them, however, was not part of the curriculum. Owing to this fact,  many experts have concluded that this work was meant as a juvenile joke. Others have noted his poor health at the time and considered this work a vanitas or memento mori. We do know from his letters, however, that van Gogh himself thought his classes to be boring and pointless in their instruction.

The Night Café, 1888
Yale University Art Gallery

Van Gogh wrote that with The Night Café, he tried “to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime.” The café’s clashing colors visually expressed what van Gogh saw as the, “terrible passions of humanity.”

The Red Vineyard, 1888
Pushkin Museum

Purchased by Anna Boch for 400 francs The Red Vineyard at Arles is supposedly the only work van Gogh sold. Painted two weeks after fellow artist, Paul Gauguin moved into van Gogh’s home. Gauguin would create The Wine Harvest based on the same scene.

Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1888
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Considered one of van Gogh’s most trusted friends, Roulin tended to van Gogh following his ear slicing incident. Roulin saw him committed to the psychiatric hospital in Arles and provided constant solace to the artist in his convalescence.

The Courtyard of the Hospital at Arles, 1889 Oskar
Reinhart Collection

Van Gogh entered the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum on 8 May 1889, he had two cells with barred windows, one of which he used as a studio. The clinic and its garden became the main subjects of his paintings.

Starry Night, 1889
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Painted a year before van Gogh’s death, The Starry Night captures the expressionist nature of van Gogh’s method. Rather than simply representing the night sky as it appears in nature, van Gogh transforms the nocturnal landscape into an emotional exploration of one’s place in the cosmos. Set against the deep blue background, the viewer is left transfixed by the swirling of paint and combustion color.

Writing to his brother Theo, van Gogh seems to reference the work indirectly:

 

Is the whole of life visible to us, or isn’t it rather that this side of death we see only the one hemisphere?

Painters–to take them alone–dead and buried, speak of the next generation or to several succeeding generations through their work.

Is that all, or is there more to come? Perhaps death is not the hardest thing in a painter’s life.

For my own part, I declare I know nothing whatever about it, but looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shinning sots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots of the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star.

— Vincent van Gogh

Posted on December 3, 2019

Artist's ArtDNA® Breakdown:

Alluring Romantic

History has described 19th century American painter Winslow Homer as curious, imaginative and passionate, optimistic, lively and composed; Team Mona describes him as an Alluring Romantic! Known as a thoughtful and reclusive man who strived to capture the struggle between mankind and the forces of nature, his works are considered amongst the most powerful and expressive of his time.

Homer was born in Boston at a time when no formal art institution there existed. He was thrusted into an early artistic education as an apprentice to the commercial lithographer, John H. Bufford. Following his apprenticeship, Homer worked as a freelance illustrator for such magazines as Harper’s Weekly and Ballou’s Pictorial. Homer went to the front lines of the American Civil War (1861–1865) as a war correspondent where he sketched both the quiet and chaotic scenes of life on and off the battlefield. Gaining national recognition for those illustrations published in Harper’s Weekly, Homer was afforded the financial stability to travel to Europe and continue his autodidactic education. When he returned in 1868, his works remained stylistically the same, though a noticeable shift in his color palette suggests Barbizon influences from his time spent in France.

The life that I have chosen gives me my full hours of enjoyment for the balance of my life: the sun will not rise, or set, without my notice and thanks.

— Winslow Homer

Homer's Work:

His works are a visual representation of society’s struggle to orient itself in the wake of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, in the climax of the industrial revolution, and in the aftermath of The Civil War. The thematics of man vs. nature and “survival of the fittest” are thematically imbued in depictions of women tending to the homestead, the men absent and assumed to be at war; of sailors bravely facing the brunt of the storm. Fueled with the passion, beauty and tumult of everyday life, Homer’s body of work exudes the emotional authenticity of his Alluring Romantic sensibilities. Discover the evolution of American Realist, Winslow Homer!

Prisoners from the front, 1866
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Prisoners from the front, was completed one year after the war ended and only four years after Homer first began working in oils. This work would help to establish Homer’s reputation.

Rainy Day In Camp, 1877
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Homer completed Rainy Day in Camp, his last major scene of life at the front, six years after the Civil War ended, using studies made during the siege of Yorktown, Virginia, in April and May 1862.

Dressing for Carnival, 1877
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dressing for Carnival reflects Homer’s interest in understanding and depicting the ‘silent tension’ that prevailed throughout postwar society. Produced one year after the failure of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, Homer’s subject matter evokes both the emotional and physical dislocation as well as the mental endurance of African Americans and their culture in the aftermath of slavery.

After 1890, Homer frequently depicted “naturalist” subjects – hunting and fishing in the Adirondacks and coastal or marine views at Prout’s Neck, Maine. The Fox Hunt, shows a fox desperately bounding through deep snow in an attempt to flee a flock of half-starved crows. The birds descend with outstretched wings, forming a dark hovering mass above the struggling fox.

The North Road, Bermuda, 1900
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art
The Fog Warning, 1885
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

While the fisherman has been successful, the hardest task of the day, the return to the main ship, is still ahead of him. Turning towards the horizon, the fisherman measures the distance to the mother ship, and to safety. The seas are choppy and the dory rocks high on the waves, making it clear that the journey home will require considerable physical effort.

Key West Hauling Up Anchor, 1903
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Posted on October 18, 2019

Creative types are bursting with intrigue! The more we learn about them and subsequently see ourselves in them, the more we understand about our selves and about what we love. This series is a deep dive into the myriad personalities of The Creative! Discover the person, discover the art!

Posted on October 11, 2019