Saturday, July 6, 2013
Why Is Van Gogh Considered Such a Great Artist?
What Does Life Have to do With It?
One argument critics use is the "his life was better than his art" theory. Vincent's life story was so dramatic and so tragic that it acts as a rosy-tinted filter for people looking at his work. Personally, I think that argument doesn't hold water. There have been many MANY artists that have lead tragic lives or committed suicide and none of them are as popular as Van Gogh. When you get right down to it, great art communicates more powerfully than great biographies.
Not From Just One School
Art was at a big crossroads during Vincent's life. It was moving from realism to Impressionism and then to modern art. In between were short-lived art movements like Pointillism (painting in a series of dots) and Symbolism, where the subject matter was strictly from the artist's imagination (think Paul Gauguin at his most freaky.) Vincent managed to blend the best elements of these schools without degenerating into total chaos.
What is art? One definition is "to hold a mirror up to the universe." The artist is the mirror. Van Gogh painted in a way that only he could do. He wanted to paint feelings as well as what was actually in front of him. Even when he copied other painter's works, he injected different color schemes and other subtle differences so that they are unmistakably from Van Gogh's hand. Before Van Gogh, it was very unusual for an artist to put any of his inner world into a work. If an artist wanted to put himself in the painting, he would just paint his face in there somewhere.
Ahead of His Time
There was nobody painting quite like Van Gogh in the last five years of his life. Although Van Gogh tried many styles in the ten years he spent as an artist, by 1888 he had developed his own colorfully intense style. This intensity and radical reinterpretations of the visible world greatly inspired the generations of artists that lived long after Van Gogh.
You Try and Paint Like Him, Sunshine
Think Van Gogh ain't so great? You try to paint like him. Don't copy the paintings exactly -- just paint something like him. You'll find it's an incredibly hard exercise. This is when it will finally hit home what a great artist Van Gogh was.