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Vincent van Gogh - Essay Example

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Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh lived in the period 1853-1890 and died after shooting himself in the chest at the young age of 37. In spite of the fact that he was a late starter (as aforementioned, he commenced his career as an artist at the age of 27), he was highly prolific and produced more than 2000 paintings in the last 10 years of his life.
The style of Vincent van Gogh is very unique but it can be best described as post-impressionist [3]. This style was initiated as an extension of impressionism but, at the same time, a rebellion against its limitations. The use of vibrant colors, thick brushstrokes and real-life subjects were features shared with impressionism. Conversely, the emphasis of geometric forms, the distortion of reality to create an emotional effect and the unnatural use of color were novel and innovative features that allowed the subsequent development of this style into expressionism, of which van Gogh was a pioneer [4, 5].
"Looking at the stars always makes me dream . Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France ...., we take death to reach a star" [5]. It was perhaps this kind of thought that urged van Gogh to paint "the Starry Night" (Saint Rmy, June 1889), one of his most iconic paintings. It is oil on canvas and it is currently housed (since 1941 it is part of the permanent collection) in the Museum of Modern Art of New York (New York, USA) [5].
The tree in the painting is a cypress, a species generally associated with cemeteries and mourning. It is in the shape of a flame and helps connect heaven, represented by a lively, striking and vibrant sky, with earth, represented by the little village at the bottom of the painting. At the same time, the village identifies order, while the stars in the sky are a explosion of colour and energy.
Although some critics maintain that the village depicted in the painting is not real, others believe it represents views of Saint Rmy (Provence, France) from the neighbourhood of the asylum Van Gogh was confined to at the time the painting was made. This period is often referred to as "the Saint Rmy period". It is characterised by the use of thick, sweeping brushstrokes to create a sea of swirls and spirals, which revealed the mental turmoil he was suffering. The mental hospital was housed in a former monastery a mile and a half out of town, in a area of cornfields, olive trees and vineyards.
His time at the hospital gave him the opportunity to reflect about his childhood and the values and beliefs from this time of his life. The church spire is an addition that is believed to be a reference to his childhood and his native land, the Netherlands [6].
The painting favours feeling, emotion and energy and puts aside the impressionist doctrine of truth to nature. However, Van Gogh was never very happy with the painting as he considered it a study, not a finished piece. As he ...Show more

Summary

As a boy he was silent and serious. His youth was, by his own admission, "gloomy and cold and barren" [1]. After holding jobs as a book seller, art dealer and supply teacher, he turned fervently to religion but failed to make a career in this field. During all this time he recorded the scenes and people around him in drawings…
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