Vincent van Gogh was a famous Dutch Post-Impressionist artist, whose unique artwork revolved around a curious joy of absorbing nature and its surroundings, then transforming what he saw into a distinctive style of expressionist art. Vincent created this distinctive style by expressing his emotions with a certain method of brush strokes and the color he blended with his brush strokes into his paintings. The van Gogh family and a number of powerful artists of that period had a great deal of influence on how Vincent van Gogh created his unique and colorful brush strokes Wallace 9.
The family influence on his unique and distinctive style of art began the day he was born on March 30, 1853. Vincent was born into a family of religious and artistic relatives who were mourning the death of his older brother. Vincent’s brother was born and died by stillbirth on the exact date that Vincent was born, a year later. It was a very odd coincidence and even odder when their parents gave Vincent Willem van Gogh the exact name they had given his older brother. The stillborn baby was buried in a graveyard next to the family’s church where his father was a Protestant minister.Order now
The gravestone of Vincent’s brother was inscribed with the words “VINCENT VAN GOGH” “1852” “Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not for such is the KINGDOM OF GOD” Sweetman 7. The death of his older brother effected Vincent throughout his life, and his curiosity of his older brother with the exact name, birth date and date of death, would take Vincent on long walks past his brother’s grave. Torterolo 8. He would turn these curious walks from his home to his brother’s grave into an adventure of wonder and he began exploring the colors and textures of nature.
He was a typical, ordinary child with a special gift of wonder and curiosity and would spend hours examining every detail of color and texture within a flower, leaf, bush, insect and anything of nature that caught his eye. Instead of playing with other children, he would prefer to play alone outside and was drawn to discovering nature like a bee to honey. As Vincent explored the road to and from the graveyard, he examined the colors and textures on a small scale, remembering every detail at an early age. As he grew older, these details would contribute to help him paint the larger scales of landscapes, trees, skies and water.
Vincent’s nature walks became more interesting and meaningful when his younger brother, Theodorus Theo van Gogh was able to accompany him. Theo was two years younger than Vincent and became his closest companion throughout his life. Together they would spend hours playing and exploring the Dutch countryside. Later in life, Vincent would write over 600 letters to Theo explaining the many colors he was mixing in his paintings, comparing them to the colors and textures they discovered on their nature walks when they were young boys.
His mother, Anna Cornelia Carbentus who liked to sketch and paint wildflowers in her spare time as a hobby, was born into a family of art dealers. Vincent’s father, Theodorus Dorus van Gogh was a Protestant minister who came from a large family of religious ministers and art dealers. This combination of influences from his mother’s background in art and his father’s religion became an inner struggle for Vincent. These influences also had a deep impact on his life, how he viewed art and would eventually lead him to paint with dramatic bright colors and develop his own unique style of painting.
The religious background of his father drew him towards the dramatic religious experiences that were portrayed in many masterpieces of art that Rembrandt created. Rembrandt’s paintings were a mixture of drama and tenderness, and of dark and light colors. This mixture of drama and colors caught Vincent’s curiosity and became another great influence in the development of his unique color and style. The influence of these dark, dramatic, powerful scenes with light tender highlighted glows within them stayed with Vincent throughout his entire life and were revealed in many of his own paintings.
Vincent’s namesake, Dorus’s brother, was known as Uncle Cent and was a wonderful influence in Vincent’s life. He introduced Vincent and Theo to the world of art by telling stories of great artists and their work. Vincent was an excellent student and loved to read. He was not sure what his career would be but he knew he had to go to work and help his family. Uncle Cent helped Vincent get started in the art world at the early age of sixteen. Uncle Cent was a respected art dealer who helped him get an apprentice position, at The Hague School south of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
This was the introduction of his life into the world of art. Vincent worked at The Hague and was intrigued by the masterpieces that he worked with on a daily basis. Vincent’s joy of art grew with the new and exciting experiences at his job. It was evident that he enjoyed his work when The Hague promoted him and transferred him to The Goupil in London. In London, he followed the same pattern exploring the countryside, except that his small scale of evaluating color and texture, grew from evaluating flowers, leaves, bushes, and insects to a larger scale of historical architecture, bridges, and famous sculptures.
He would take many long walks to and from work reviewing every detail of architecture and style of the decorative buildings of London. Living in London became a turning point in Vincent’s life. He was very happy working at his job and he met his landowner’s daughter, Eugenie and secretly fell in love with her. Eugenie did not share his affections and rejected any relationship with Vincent. He was devastated and Eugenie’s rejection started a series of deteriorating events in Vincent’s life. This deterioration was reflected in his work at The Goupil and eventually he was fired.
He was no longer interested in anything in life except religion. He became obsessed with religion and was developing a negative outlook towards society. After being fired from The Goupil, his life took a gloomy turn for the worse. Vincent moved to Borinage, a coal-mining district in Belgium. The dark, dismal poverty stricken lifestyle of Borinage attracted Vincent. Although he was obsessed with religion and thought he needed to endure hardship of any kind, he was a sensitive and good- hearted individual and sincerely felt that this was his calling in life.
He was so absorbed in his own life he did not understand the balance of eating versus not eating, giving his own clothes to people in need, ending up with rags for himself. This behavior began to take a toll on his mental and physical health. It was uncanny that he could function within a normal world during this period, but it also seemed that his main concern was to describe this way of life in letters to Theo Van Gogh The Letters. His dismal life in Borinage, came close to causing his death, but these letters to Theo seemed to keep him in reality.
The letters Vincent wrote to Theo were an outlet from living in Borinage and eventually gave him strength to overcome his obsession of wanting to live like a martyr. He left the Borinage moved home to his parent’s home and began to paint. His first attempt at using color was without instruction and based on what he knew from the outside natural environment. As a result, he experimented with primary colors and used more earth tones and black and color mixtures. He became very obsessed with painting and tried to portray his martyr like experiences in the Borinage of Belgium on canvas.
Using field workers as models, he created a painting called “The Potato Eaters” Van Gogh The Paintings. “The Potato Eaters” portrayed the dismal, dark colors of his Borinage experience and conveyed a new result for Vincent’s color and method in his paintings Table 1. Table 1 “The Potato Eaters” Vincent felt this was the best artwork he had ever created. He was excited and started making plans to move to Paris and become an artist when his father suddenly died. His life was so isolated and unrealistic that his father’s death did not seem to impact him at all.
Vincent moved to Paris where he moved in with his brother Theo and looked at color differently than the dark dismal shadows he had seen in Borinage. “Vincent saw color in a new way: the powerful light he had admired in the art of Rembrandt and Tintoretto turned into the delicate tonal gradations that characterize his Parisian landscapes” Torterolo 40. Vincent became interested in the mixture of color in paints and knew he needed instruction, so he enrolled in the famous Parisian studio by Cormon.
The action of enrolling in a studio was remarkable for Vincent as he was never comfortable taking instruction of art from anyone. He had grown from a very sweet inquisitive child into a martyr wanting to express his oppressive experiences in art and now wanting to learn and develop a new experience of color and method in his paintings. All in all, this remarkable, positive move to Paris, enrolling in the studio by Cormon, was such an improvement to his lifestyle, that one could actually see it in his choice of color and brushstrokes with which he painted.
From his studio experience, he learned how colors were created on canvas without the natural light of nature and his thick application of paint and color to the canvas was very different from the applications of other artists of that period. His instructor thought this was an odd way of applying paint to canvas and was very harsh and critical of his style and methods. Vincent was more critical of his style than his instructor, and worked harder at perfecting his style and methods.
He loved the bright, vibrant colors he produced and continued to paint them in the future. His unique method of painting consisted of his emotions, styles of brush strokes and mixtures of color within his brush strokes. Author, Robert Wallace, described Vincent’s method of painting as: “It was a method to fuse what he saw, and what he felt, as quickly as possible into statements that were revelations of himself”Wallace 7. This description was an exact overview of his short career as a painter.
Table 2 “Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat” The painting method that he developed over the short span of his career was short, abrupt, brush strokes leaving thick lines of paint on the surface of the canvas. His work titled “Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat” revealed the thick lines of paint which were transformed into different shades of color as the brushstroke continued across the canvas Table 2. Another example of his famous artwork was named “Starry Night”.
This painting illustrated the different shades of color by the movement and swirling motions of his paintbrush Table 3. Table 3 “Starry Night” Towards the end of his life, Vincent’s emotions and his declining health, revealed a more dramatic spontaneous brushstroke and color mixture. His unique emotional use of color within his paintings was a variety of primary colors reduced and enhanced in his painting titled “Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries de-la-Mer” Table 4. Table 4 Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries de-la-Mer” A wonderful tribute to accompany Vincent van Gogh’s art was his personal letters he wrote to his brother Theo expressing his inner feelings of the artwork he created. The letters coincide with his art and explained events in his life of how he developed the unique style and color of his paintings Van Gogh The Letters. The combination of his art and writings revealed his joy of peaceful walks through nature and then producing vibrant colorful works of art from his visions.