The Unsung Genius Of Vincent Van Gogh
(4 min read) When we talk about Vincent van Gogh, the iconic 20th Century painter, we often fail to recognize the pivotal contributions made by his opulent and generously textured visuals. Contemporary art has been radically morphed by an artist that is often reduced to a “tortured soul”. Although he only sold one painting while alive, his work has gone on to contribute to the likes of Fauvism and Abstract Expressionism. His works continue to touch the hearts and captivate the eyes of millions, while being featured in galleries, on clothes, accessories and home accents worldwide.
So, what was behind the man who painted the Sunflowers?
It is undeniable that mental illness played a huge part in not only the self-destructive spirals of the Austrian artist but in the artworks that he produced. Rich greens, yellows, and thick, impulsive brushstrokes combine in a swirling frenzy, shedding light upon the headspace of Van Gogh. His letters to his dear brother; Theo (who funded a lot of Van Gogh’s paintings) give us further insight into his emotional turbulence, and also onto his keen eye for sentiment, poetry and the beauty all around us. He spoke with gratitude and love and unfiltered honesty, which mirrors directly into his raw and provoking works – As he famously remarked; “real painters do not paint things as they are… they paint them as they themselves feel them to be.”
Considered by many to be his first masterpiece; Potato Eaters was painted in 1885 in Nuenen, Netherlands. Van Gogh found himself captivated by the hardworking laborers, haggard faces and knowing eyes of the humble folk. He studied the working class avidly throughout his life, which complimented his rough and expressionist technique. The heavy-browed family shares a simple meal of potatoes, their eyes gazing wearily yet hopefully under humble bonnets and hats. Van Gogh’s kinship with the working class is arguably what has made him so popular today; he did not surround himself with finery and fancy but sunk his creative appetite right into the heart of relatability, diversity, and authentic truth.
Van Gogh didn’t only focus on portraits of people, but captivated scenery and still with a gorgeously deep uniqueness. The Starry Night, painted in June 1889, is Van Gogh’s most famous painting, featuring a myriad of swirling cloud and sky merging with incandescent stars that appear to pulsate with the heartbeat of the night. Rich cobalt’s and azures greet the viewer in elegant yet hearty brushstrokes, appearing almost like a mosaic pattern as they merge with the dark, towering cityscape below.
It has been argued that Van Gogh’s mental health struggles may have contributed to his emotive imagery, perhaps the heavy swirls were akin to his own hallucinations, or perhaps his keen, albeit troublesome imagination allowed such beauty to be perceived, beauty so unlike where artists had ventured before.
Van Gogh has offered society a wonderfully unique form of beauty, treading bravely into new ways of thinking about art and design. His turbulent mental health, unique outlook on life and burning passion for love and emotion enabled him to see the world through an incomparable set of eyes that are still considered two of the most profound today.
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