Friday, February 02, 2007

Introduction to the Van Gogh Project

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890)
Harvest in Provence, 1888
Reed pen, quill, and ink over graphite on wove paper; 24 x 32 cm (9 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington

(For more images of drawings by Van Gogh see the archive of the exhibition "Vincent Van gogh: the Drawings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's website )

Fine Line Artists are continuing with our big project to study an artist each month during 2007. The artist chosen for February is Van Gogh and, as Van Gogh had a passion for drawing throughout his artistic career, I'm going to be focusing in particular on his drawings.

I've already got the book by Sjraar Van Heugten "Van Gogh - The Master Draughtsman" published by Thames and Hudson. It's linked to the exhibitions of his drawings held in 2005 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The exhibition and the book comprise a survey of his works on paper and his approach to drawing and provides insights into how his drawings developed over time, both in their own right and as preparation for paintings. I've provided some links below - including ones to the comprehensive website of images compiled by David Brooks.

To see what other Fine Line Artists are doing go to their blog posts about the project (I'll update this list as people post):
As before if you'd like to join in then just let one of us know by inviting us to view your blog and your project post.

Right - here's the edited highlights so far (and VG is Van Gogh) based on my reading of Sjraar Van Heugten's excellent book:
  • VG would never have been an artist if his brother hadn't suggested it - after several failures at other occupations / jobs.
  • He focused almost entirely on drawing at the beginning of his artistic career - and drawing became and always remained a passion
  • His work may suggest he was a spontaneous artist, who worked intuitively and was averse to rigid rules and thorough preparation. However study of his approach to his works and drawing reveals this is not the case at all. He always worked in an organised and systematic way and never ever stopped studying art seriously. Which may surprise a few people!
  • He didn't start drawing until 1180 when he was 28. In relation to drawing:
    • He didn't have a tutor and had to learn from textbooks and basically master techniques through trial and error.
    • The manual he particularly liked was Armand Cassagne's A Practical Guide to Applied Perspective in Art and Industrial Drawing. You can find an e-book version of the New Extended Edition, Paris, published (in French) by Fourat and Son in Paris in 1884 here.
    • He designed a study programme for himself which included following the contemporary approach of most art courses (then) of copying examples of drawing and other graphic works by well know masters.
  • He admired social-realist art - portraying things the way they really were - but had a tendency to portray people in an awkward rigid way.
  • He liked motifs from nature and was influenced by Millet who VG regarded as his spiritual and artistic guide.
  • VG produced some extraordinary drawings of the Provencal landscape using a reed pen
For the next post, I'll continue with what else I've found out and what sort of project work I'm planning for February.

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  1. Count me in, of course. Too bad I haven't a studio at present while my new one is under construction, and my old one is half unloaded into the new one!
    He was self-taught, but did attend an atelier in Antwerp for a time. He was kicked out by the instructor. Sorry, I won't nit pick details of the historical VG. Where would that end?
    But, I find his self instruction fascinating. He also participated in the broader culture of the art avant-garde of the day, which was at the height of it's powers in his day.
    I am thinking of focusing on his portraiture, or his plein air work, since I may be able to do these things sans studio. We'll see.
    Thank you for the gracious invite and the challenge.

  2. I love his drawings and the variety of marks he uses to express texture and form

    A good choice for a project :)

  3. I have one watercolour to finish and then I'm in. I do wish I had a reed pen - maybe I can do something with the Pampas Grass in the garden.
    Just happen to be reading Simon Schama's Power of Art which has a very good essay on Van Gogh.

  4. I'd love to hear what SS has to say Robyn

  5. Casey - good to hear you're going to participate. Any chance of tempting you too Vivien? Robyn - glad to have you on board.

  6. Hi Katherine,

    Count me in for VG as well. He's my absolute favorite so it's hard to resist...

    Thanks for the links you've posted on VG as well, very informative!

  7. I'm really impatient to get started on my Van Gogh journey however I've been suffering from awful dizziness for well over a week. I only mention this because it's believed Van Gogh may have suffered from Meniere Syndrome (an inner ear problem) and that it contributed to his suicide. I'm hoping I'm only suffering from bad computer posture!
    What I love about Simon Schama's essay is that he doesn't think Vincent felt he failed his art at the end - instead, he succeeded in his goal to unite heaven and earth in a new religion of line and colour. I wish I could post the whole essay - but copyright would be a problem. Anyway, I'm going to start with some drawings and maybe go on to a watercolour. One of my favourite VG drawings is SORROW.


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