Van Gogh And Music A Symphony In Blue And Yellow Van Gogh’s Sunflowers: History and Analysis of the First Sunflower Series (August, 1888)

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Van Gogh’s Sunflowers: History and Analysis of the First Sunflower Series (August, 1888)

Painted in about a week in late August 1888, Van Gogh’s first series of sunflowers was inspired by his “yellow house” in Arles, France, and created as a decorative piece. In preparation for the arrival of the painter Paul Gauguin later in the year, Van Gogh wanted his house and his paintings to reflect a particularly luminous and mysterious color palette that he acquired in Arles and the surrounding Mediterranean countryside.

“The Mediterranean is yellow and changeable. I don’t always know whether it’s green or purple, I can’t even say blue. gray … Now everywhere you can say old gold, bronze, copper, and the green of the heat-bleached sky with an azure glow: delicious hues, unusual harmonies, Delacroix’s blended hues.” [Excerpt from letters to Theo]

Arriving in Arles in February 1888, Van Gogh was immediately inspired and mesmerized by the vibrancy of color in the south of France. In contrast to the cloudy and foggy skies and landscapes of northern Europe, the blazing sun and bright southern skies seem to remove all doubt from Van Gogh’s paintings. Around the city of Arles, inspired color contrasts and swirling rhythms began to flow endlessly, as if in a state of ecstasy. While painting almost one picture a day and writing hundreds of letters, in 1888 Van Gogh painted at a rapid pace, achieving a speed and quality almost unprecedented in the history of art.

Sunflowers as a thank you gift

Most of Van Gogh’s paintings were executed without thought, so his planned series of sunflowers was a bit of a step back, as they were meant to be an expression of gifts and friendship. But many of his paintings seem to pull you up to the horizon and draw you in in Van Gogh’s sunflowers seem to touch his vision and world out and communicate with you; as if they could be touched. These are paintings meant to convey charm and comfort, and perhaps all the more remarkable because the intended viewer of these paintings was another artist whom Van Gogh greatly admired: he knew that nothing less than magnificent would impress Gauguin.

Drawing a sunflower

When Gauguin finally confirmed that he would go to Arles (after a long delay), Van Gogh’s sadness and fear completely disappeared. With an almost delicious enthusiasm, he threw himself into the sunflower project. It expanded in his mind from six to twelve pictures, becoming a “symphony of blue and yellow” as soulful as music, with its colors and “simple technique” that anyone with eyes could see in his head. Racing to finish the painting before the flowers withered, Vincent toiled from sunrise to sunset, completing four of the twelve he envisioned. He first created a series of two paintings with less than a dozen flowers displaced next to a composition of “twelve sunflowers and buds” (actually more) placed in a yellow ceramic box on a pale blue-green background. . After completing the light-against-light study, he painted a pendant of the same size and the same yellow vase, but with a contrasting yellow sunflower ‘all yellow’ in front of a yellow background.

“Simple technique,” says Vincent, an approach free of the vulgar jargon of neatness. In fact, the procedure in these paintings shows his rejection of Neo-Impressionism. He begins with a conventional style, builds the composition using drawn contour sketches, reinforces it with painted lines, and closes the background and main form with a thin layer of paint. Then he picks up the pace, sometimes applying color with a brush and in other places a little paint. He did not hesitate to use colors that were not mixed directly from the tube, and often mixed the pigments on his palette incompletely, so that separate color veins flowed in separate strokes.

Vincent designed different brush systems for each element in the painting: the background is a basket weave pattern; table, several weak horizontal strokes; single flower, leaf petals solitary or small, parallel; the centers of these flowers are painted with circular strokes of pure red lake with a ring of yellow impasto; Full-double flower petals are short, with thick lines that are narrower in the center. Keeping the general shape of most of the flowers while applying the first background layer, he added the petal tips to the final soil. Applying new pigment with control and confidence to the still-wet underparts or adjacent areas, Vincent spent only one session on each canvas, then reinforced a few contours and probably applied his signature.

Van Gogh’s sunflower series, originally contemplated in solitude, now celebrated Vincent’s “hope to live with Gauguin in his studio” and evoked a growing sense of mission. For his part, Gauguin expressed his willingness to participate in his friend’s plans, but he never felt any personal or ideological passion.

Using innovations in late 19th-century paint production, throughout 1888 Van Gogh used bright, mixed colors against each other to dramatic effect. Chrome yellow, citron yellow, zinc yellow, cadmium, straw yellow, cobalt blue, French ultramarine, virid, and emerald green are strongly reflected in Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and his later works. Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings exploit the full potential of intense color combined with a sense of undulating and twisting rhythms, using direct, visual, and powerful contrasts between colors.

An analysis of Van Gogh’s “Sunflower” reveals the unity of superficial and hidden themes of the artist’s life: his love of yellow, his insistence on speed, his intensity of focus on specific objects and people, and his apparent closeness. When the sunflower is said to be his “flower of power”:

“You know the peonies are Jeannine’s, the hollyhocks are Kuost’s, and the sunflowers are mine.”

Furthermore, one of the only paintings Paul Gauguin completed during his meeting with Van Gogh in Arles was Vincent’s Sunflowers (see Gauguin section below), which captures Van Gogh’s calm energy in his depiction of subjects and landscapes.

Fall in love with yellow

When it comes to Vincent Van Gogh’s association with yellow, it’s hard not to draw this conclusion from the man who painted sunflowers in human history “in yellow” while renting a yellow house and painting hundreds of depictions of cornfields and wheat fields. , and of course, wild gold in biblical colors Planter and at the beginning of the year. In a letter to his sister Willemina, Van Gogh described the sunflower still life as “an all-yellow painting.” Perhaps foreshadowing Picasso’s Blue Period, when the artist stretched his color palette to spectacular results, Van Gogh’s sunflowers are a wild and vibrant “symphony of yellows” that combine a dozen or more yellow hues and tones into a unique unity.

“Instant” painting

Speaking of speed, Van Gogh not only had to paint at a furious pace, but to capture the wind, the sun, the trees and, of course, the sunflowers, he had to paint as fast as nature.

“I propose to paint a few paintings for the studio, hoping to live there with Gauguin. Nothing but a lot of large sunflowers … If I carry out my plan, there will be ten paintings. Everything is symphonic. Blue and yellow. Flowers are very fast I start working early every day because it dries up and I have to paint it all at once.”

This “one-shot” technique not only increased his output in the later years of his life, but also added focus, energy, and unique expression to many of his paintings. Waves, rivers, eddies, swirls of color seem to flow spontaneously in the moment, in harmony with the rhythms of the larger, grander universe hidden beneath the simplest of things.

Gauguin’s “Sunflower Painter”

with Sunflower artist, Gauguin represented the arrangement of sunflowers that Vincent would paint, following Van Gogh’s August Sunflowers series. The two full flower heads (called doubles) are in the same position as the yellow-and-yellow version, and the upper flower in Gauguin’s canvas corresponds to the frilled flower in Vincent’s upper left. Gauguin, following Vincent, greatly strengthened the form of the rayed flowers, and also used the dark red layer of the central disk. This technique on Gauguin’s canvases may indicate criticism of Vincent for only copying sunflowers and even applying paint to sunflowers.

Sunflower artist Gauguin’s critical criticism of Vincent’s work habits and their limitations is illustrated along the lines of a larger indictment that he would later attach to one of his depictions of his time with Vincent. Gauguin asserted that while 19th-century artists mastered painting as a language of direct communication, Delacroix did not truly understand the expressive power of color.

But the image of Vincent is fictitious: Van Gogh could not have painted real sunflowers in December, because they were not the season. In describing the still life as Vincent did, Gauguin suggested that neither he nor Vincent had observed the subject directly, but had already seen it transformed by the influence of his imagination. In other words, they did not work on real sunflowers, but on previous pictures of sunflowers.

By giving Vincent a trance-like, absorbed expression, Gauguin did something more complex than caricature and mockery. He and Vincent were evidently pondering the creative potential of the state between waking and dreaming. Gauguin and Van Gogh blurred the line between “seeing God” in a trance-like state and being caught in a random, primal stupor, but many see them as synonymous. Vincent would later comment on the photo, which is similar to his character saying, “Of course it’s me, but I’m crazy.”

Picture of the lost sunflower (second version)

This Van Gogh painting, painted around the same time as the other three sunflowers mentioned above, was considered “Six Sunflowers” and was intended to be placed within an orange frame. Once owned by wealthy Japanese art collector Koyata Yamamoto, the painting was destroyed along with its owner’s house on August 6, 1945, the same day the US bombed Hiroshima.

Although the painting was not hit by a nuclear bomb, it hung on the couch of a man’s beach house in Osaka as the village was destroyed by US bombing that day. Almost 70 years later, in 2013, British art critic and curator Martin Bailey, while researching a book about Van Gogh’s sunflowers, came across a color photograph of the painting hidden in a collection of Cézanne prints.

Van Gogh’s in general A picture of a sunflower It continues to attract the interest of ordinary viewers and art critics. Even 125 years after these four paintings were completed, they continue to surprise and amaze us.

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