Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Two Sunflowers an Expressionist-Impressionist view

I often call myself an Expressionist-Impressionist because of the bold colors and brush work that I use.

How Van Gogh Inspired the Expressionists

Dec. 11, 2006 issue - When Vincent van Gogh painted "Poppies in the Field" in 1889, neither the artist nor his subject had much relevance in the world. He was a troubled Dutch painter without much of a following, and his brash red flowers, while striking, announced nothing more profound than the coming of spring. Thirty years later, much had changed on both counts. The poppies came to symbolize the blood spilled by young soldiers on the battlefields of World War I, and the artist's fame had grown significantly since his death in 1890. That was due in part to the way his work affected German and Austrian expressionists in the early part of the 20th century. "His bombast is alien to me," Swiss-German artist Paul Klee wrote in his diary. "But he is without doubt a genius."

The extent of van Gogh's impact on the expressionists is the subject of a dazzling new show at the artist's eponymous museum in Amsterdam. "Vincent van Gogh and Expressionism" (through March 4) compiles almost 100 paintings and sketches by such artists as Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Viewed separately, these works are not obviously influenced by the Dutch master. But when they are hung beside his on subtly painted walls of yellow, blue and gray, van Gogh's colorful brushstrokes are readily apparent in the expressionists' flowing hues. "Van Gogh's influence on the expressionists was absolutely crucial," says exhibition curator Jill Lloyd. "Of course they drew their inspiration from other artists like Gauguin and Cézanne, but the spirit, the attitude to nature and the life force of van Gogh really spoke to them."

Expressionism blossomed in Germany and Austria when artists, influenced by the writings of Nietzsche, began to paint subjective feelings of scenes, leaning on personal experience and beliefs. This desire to present rather than represent led artists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein naturally toward van Gogh, whose vivid depictions of such subjects as sunflowers evoked a certain spirituality. Kirchner and Erich Heckel—two of the men who formed the art group Die Brücke while studying architecture in Dresden—went "wild" after seeing an exhibition of 54 van Gogh paintings in 1905, according to one of their professors, Fritz Schumacher. If any member of the Brücke group had a tragic similarity to van Gogh, it was Kirchner, who suffered a breakdown while serving in the German Army. His "Schlemihl Tries to Seize the Shadow, in Vain" (1915) and a copy of van Gogh's "The Painter on the Road to Tarascon" (1888)—the original was destroyed by a fire during World War II—are strikingly similar when viewed next to each other. There is a turbulent feel to Kirchner's blue man, mocked by a black, foreboding shadow; van Gogh's painter also has a shadow following him—perhaps his conscience, or an unremitting sense of loneliness.

The Munich expressionists, known as Der Blaue Reiter, were especially awed by van Gogh's subtle and complex views of nature. The use of striking colors in August Macke's "Vegetable Fields" (1911) is not unlike van Gogh's "The Sower" (1888). Both artists create a sweeping motion in the perspective, as if the action is about to be sprung upon the viewer. Macke's fields have a purplish-blue tone akin to a Provençal lavender field; van Gogh used a similar blue to represent strong flowing water. The Russian émigré painter Alexej von Jawlensky was also a fan; after purchasing "The House of Père Pillon" in installments from van Gogh's sister-in-law Johanna, he wrote to thank her: "Van Gogh was to me both a mentor and example, to possess something by his hand was my deepest wish for many years."

Some of the expressionist works even seem to breathe new life into the van Goghs they hang beside. The bold colors in van Gogh's "Vineyards at Auvers" (1890) are enhanced by hanging next to two of Klimt's huge and dynamic landscapes, "Pond of Schloss Kammer on the Attersee" and "Orchard," with their strident greens and glistening touches of gold. The same holds true for van Gogh's "Sunflowers" (1889), set alongside Schiele's "Autumn Sun" (1914). Though the two depict the same type of flower, their impact is completely different. Painted on the eve of Europe's Great War, Schiele's dying flowers can be seen as an omen of the coming apocalypse. Van Gogh's still hearken back to a bright and simpler time.

© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16009306/site/newsweek/?rf=nwnewsletter


Casey Klahn said...

Awesome flowers. Your work is wonderful.
I just got the Taschen bok called; van Gogh, The Complete Paintings. Very powerful.

Delilah said...


You are too kind. Thank you
I will have to get the book.