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Van Gogh had always been somewhat fascinated by the night. This fascination seemed to manifest itself further in Aries; Van Gogh often painted images of the night and nightlife during the night. He completed Cafe Terrace at Night as well as The Night Caf 1081; . The Night Caf 1081; was a further example of Van Gogh's belief that artists should "paint things not as they are...
but as they feel them" (Philpott 40 - 41). Van Gogh had long associated particular colors with particular emotions. In The Night Caf, colors and the placement of objects are not necessarily presented accurately from a physical point of view, but The Night Caf is a depiction of Van Gogh's perception of the caf. Gauguin had painted the same caf; he had displayed people sitting near one another and gazing "boldly around them" (Russell 39). Van Gogh's caf, however, displays desolate people, their faces buried in their arms.
As Van Gogh wrote to Theo of the painting, "I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green" (Wallace 113). We can conclude that Gauguin's caf is a physical description of a place, where as Van Gogh's cafe is an emotional landscape. Van Gogh's life with Gauguin was anything but ideal, despite Van Gogh's longing for companionship and his love of Gauguin. Although Gauguin reportedly disliked much of Van Gogh's work at Aries, he liked Van Gogh's paintings of sunflowers. In fact, years later he claimed much credit for the brilliance of the sunflower paintings, despite the fact that the paintings had been completed before his arrival. The tension between the two men only seemed to grow during Gauguin's stay at Arles.
Eventually Gauguin announced that he planned to leave Arles. This was indirectly the catalyst for Van Gogh's notorious removal of his earlobe. After Gauguin left Arles, Van Gogh returned to longing for companionship. He painted Gauguin's chair and his own chair, each distinctly symbolizing its owner (Wallace III). Gauguin's chair is elaborate; Van Gogh seems to have rendered the chair with colors characteristic of Gauguin, s own paintings. On the seat of Gauguin's chair, there is a lit candle, and in the background, a lamp lit.
Van Gogh's chair, on the other hand, is simple. The painting is full of the blues and yellows characteristic of much of Van Gogh's later work. Van Gogh's unlit pipe rests on the seat, and thee is no source of light depicted in the painting. Gauguin's chair seems lively and somehow luxuriously wealthy; the painting expresses contentment.
Van Gogh's chair, on the other hand, is desolate and nearly saddened. The Starry Night was painted at Saint-Remy, and it continued Van Gogh's fascination with night; the painting is also an example of Van Gogh's attempt to paint things as he felt them. As John Russell said of the painting, The paint in The Starry Night is not applied in polite, well-judged, art-school style. It forms itself into ideograms of convulsion: emblems of an apocalyptic vision, which includes stars brighter that the sun at midday, a huge homed moon that seems to hold the sun in its embrace, and a spiral nebula that flies through the air like a serpent from the book of Revelations. Even the moonlit woodlands behind the little town are rendered with a ferocious, nonstop, over-and-over movement of the loaded brush. The Starry Night was debatable the epitome of Van Gogh's work at Saint-Remy.
Generally, Van Gogh's work at Saint-Remy became less reliant on Pointillism, and his brush strokes became the spiraling dots and dashes present in The Starry Night. His paintings at Saint-Remy were possibly the most revolutionary and original work he had ever done. The wildness of these paintings could be associated with the obscurity of his mind at the time, although today there is no way to estimate the effect his increasingly ill state of mind had on his work. Although it would be foolish to assume that Van Gogh's mental illness had no effect on his paintings, it is also foolish to cite Van Gogh's illness as the reason for his brilliance (Hammacher 14). At Saint-Remy, Van Gogh also completed his paintings of cypresses.
Like much of his work from Saint-Remy, his cypresses reflected his downcast mood in their tormented branches. "Vincent in fact saw the cypresses as writhing black flames spurting up out of the troubled earth (Wallace 144). His brush stroke was increasingly spiraling, and the clouds of the background in many of his landscapes billowed and contorted. At Saint-Remy, Van Gogh also created a painting, Reaper, which provided some foreshadowing of his death. Reaper was based on a field worker, and in ordinary context, it may not be associated with death.
The painting is yellow, chiefly, and the reaper stands at one side of the canvas, working in his field. As Van Gogh told his brother, he associated this reaper with death (Wallace 146). Despite Van Gogh's various attempts to express himself to others during his life, his only large-scale success was through his artwork. Van Gogh's artwork was his sole means of communication. Because Van Gogh was successful in expressing himself in this manner, his "sadness" has achieved immortality.
Whenever one regards his paintings and drawings, Van Gogh's sentiments are evident and comprehensible. The viewer of Van Gogh's work gains an understanding and empathy for Van Gogh, sadness, and Van Gogh's sadness continues to live through his work.
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