Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cypresses: Techniques Influenced by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh is notorious for his dynamic and energetic brushstrokes. He paints with various sizes and thicknesses of strokes in order to better render his forms. He uses line to create short gestured strokes and repeats this technique all throughout his pieces. Van Gogh’s style underwent most of this transformation during his stay in Paris where he saw first-hand the work of Impressionists. Following this visit, he began to experiment with his brushstrokes and handling of paint.

The focal point of my exhibit “Wheat Field with Cypresses” illustrates Van Gogh’s thick, impastoed technique created by layering paint. The different sizes of his brushstrokes function to add variety to the painting, yet this piece is unified with the overall movement created in the fields, mountains, sky, and cypresses. Van Gogh’s painting has a calming effect among his frenetic movement because he curves the strokes in a way that mimics the objects’ forms. This exhibit is going to specifically focus on the cypresses from this composition so that the brushwork and technique of creating this specific area can be further studied and compared to other works. The surrounding pieces exhibit how Van Gogh’s brushwork and linear qualities have influenced other illustrations of cypresses, been improvised in his own, and how a completely new mood can be created when the cypresses are rendered in a different fashion. The exhibit is arranged in a way so that the viewer is able to compare the technique of Van Gogh’s sketches and paintings of cypresses side-by-side to other artists.

Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889
oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993.132

The cypresses in this painting are constructed with brushstrokes predominately moving vertically on the page. These strokes off-balance the overall horizontal composition, yet mimic the lines in the wheat fields. These strokes are layered on the canvas in the same manner the leaves would be layering one another on the actual cypress. This method provides texture and trust that this is truly what a cypress looks like, while the methods of illustrating are obviously stylized.

Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field, 1888
Reed pen and iron gall ink over graphite on wove paper, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 64.125.3

This breakdown of the construction of the wheat field in ink displays the very fundamental aspect of mark making. Without color, Van Gogh constructs this piece purely with the repetition of various lines. It is almost as if he is mapping out what could be future brushstrokes in a large-scaled landscape. The cypresses are simplified in this piece to few lines, yet their mass is present with the repetition and layering of the lines in this drawing.

Louis Valtat, Italian Landscape, Cypresses, 1902
oil on panel, Private Collection

Louis Valtat creates a landscape similar to Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses. His composition illustrates more cypresses, but a field and mountain range exists in the background like Van Gogh’s. Valtat’s landscape incorporates brushwork that is similar to Van Gogh’s and creates movement throughout the piece. However, Valtat’s strokes are thicker and more blended, yet has less texture. There is less detail in the background, where Van Gogh details his background with larger brushwork. Although the color schemes are very similar, muted cool colors, the mood in Italian Landscape is less mystical because the brushstrokes are larger and rougher.

Vincent van Gogh, Cypresses, 1889
ink, The Brooklyn Museum

This ink drawing alludes to Van Gogh’s later oil painting and appears to be the same cypress composition. When viewing this in relation to his Wheat Field with Cypresses, it is intriguing to see the immense detail and repetition applied in this drawing. These trees embody less vertical lines and more curving and spiraling movements. Van Gogh achieves value by making heavier ink marks in darker regions and creates tints with more washed out ink. His handiwork creates a more dream-like mood with his whimsical and flowing lines.

Vincent van Gogh, Cypresses, 1889
oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 49.30

After viewing Van Gogh’s ink drawing, the viewer is able to envision the intentionality of each stroke on the canvas. Combining oil paint with his technique of short frenetic lines, he is able to create more layering and texture on the canvas that is not easily recreated with ink. His color scheme alludes to the dream-like and calming mood created in the drawing with cooler and softer colors. This composition seems as if it were taken directly from Wheat Field with Cypresses, but rendered with more detail and finer lines.

Edward Weston, Cypress, Point Lobos, 1929
printed ca. 1954, Gelatin silver print, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 57.519.2

This print is remarkable in its similarities with Van Gogh’s drawings and paintings, not only with the subject matter, but also with the detailed lines captured in this image from an actual cypress. The stark contrast of light and dark in this print further emphasizes the lines throughout. The mood created in this print is not the same as Van Gogh’s, primarily because there is a lack of color and such an abrupt light contrast. Due to this, the print creates a more dramatic, yet somber feel. The lines at the base of the tree are mimicked in Van Gogh’s paintings and linear techniques. Van Gogh recreates similar curved and frenetic repetitions, just as this cypress naturalistically does so. This causes the viewer to question if the bark of the tree could have been Van Gogh’s inspiration for his technique when illustrating one.

Jim Keeling, The Golden Cypress, 2011
ceramic sculpture, oil gilded with gold leaf, Hillier exhibit- Chelsea Flower Show

While this is not the focal point of this exhibit, this 3.1m sculpture would ideally be placed in the center of the room. Jim Keeling created this cypress sculpture after being inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s A Starry Night. This sculpture is a beautiful example of how Van Gogh’s techniques can be transferred to a variety of mediums. Keeling recreates the movement and texturized paint by layering pieces of his sculpture and carving in a manner that alludes to Van Gogh’s brushwork. Incorporating this three-dimensional piece into the exhibit allows for the viewer to witness how Van Gogh’s work is able to influence a sculpture and mimic Van Gogh’s repeated lines and layered brushwork.

No comments:

Post a Comment