225: The Genius of Van Gogh, Part 3

Vincent Van Gogh’s work is so unique I’ve renamed blogs #195 and #211 (originally titled Painting Like Van Gogh, now The Genius of Van Gogh) because no one will ever paint like Van Gogh. His work is inimitable. Nevertheless, I find it interesting and productive to study his work. Below is an analysis of several images fellow painter Erik te Kamp sent from the Kröller-Müller Museum:

The first thing I noticed is what appears to be gessoed canvas showing through in areas. The most notable spot being in the middle of the canvas on the very left. Altbough Van Gogh generally applied the paint very thickly there is definitely a hierarchy of thick and thin strokes.

In the second image we see some very random thick strokes. It is almost as if he used a different brush for each stroke–impossible of course–but it shows how he achieved a great deal of variety with his tools. I often paint foliage with a repetition that is painful. This passage is a good reminder that variety is possible even with a minimum of brushes. I don’t think this portrait of a tree would work as well if he had not given a great deal of variety to each stroke.

Also of interest is whether or not the green stroke on the trunk was painted alla prima or afterward when the first coat of paint had dried. I guess it was painted after. The dark, cloisonnistic strokes, of what appears to be black, also appear to have been painted after the first painting session. I’m impressed with Van Gogh’s simultaneous abandon and control of the medium. That paradox might be what is so engaging about his work.

Again many thanks to Erik te Kamp for these great closeups. If anyone has access to original J.M.W. Turner paintings I would love to do an analysis of his work as well.

Brad Teare–April 2015

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