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Example research essay topic: Vincent Van Gogh Brush Strokes - 2,672 words

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Vincent van Gogh Van Gogh's early period includes all his work from 1879 through 1885. Between August 1879 and November 1885, he worked in Even, The Hague where he received some instruction from his cousin, Anton Mauve and in Nutten, among other places. In 1886, Vincent Van Gogh left his home in Holland and traveled to Paris. There he found a world and way of living that was like nowhere else. Paris was filled with theaters, dance halls, cafes, large boulevards for strolling, and parks filled with people at leisure. The city was alive day and night.

In Paris, Van Gogh met other young artists - Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - and, for the first time, he saw the paintings of the Impressionist artists. The word 'impressionism' for most people conjures up images of rolling French countryside, water lilies, and scenes of Parisian bourgeois society at the turn of the 19 th century. The style is usually regarded as the beginning of modern art in Europe. However, the impact of impressionism was not limited to Europe. Leading artists in both Japan and Taiwan were heavily influenced by impressionism. This link between the art of Asia and that of Europe makes the choice of Taipei as the location for an unprecedented display of 60 French impressionist paintings early this year all the more poignant.

The work of the French impressionists came at a time of great social change in Europe. The Industrial Revolution gave birth to a new social class -- the so-called bourgeoisie. Members of this nouveau riche class were the owners of the new factories, who resided with their families in big city apartments. They became patrons of the new style of art, and their emphasis on closely-knit, private family life became the subject of many impressionist painters. Van Gogh and his fellow artists painted in a period known as the Belle Epoque, "the beautiful age. " A flamboyant and carefree period began in the gay nineties and ended with the outbreak of the First World War Tremendous wealth had been created by the Industrial Revolution and the colonization of countries around the world by the newly industrialized nations.

That new wealth was on display in Paris. Elegantly dressed women and men strolled the boulevards and rode about town in magnificent carriages. Their evenings were spent at the opera, ballet and theater or at circuses and nightclubs. For the rich, much of life was a party.

The spirit of the Belle Epoque was on display in two Paris World's Fairs, one held in 1889 to celebrate the 100 th anniversary of the French Revolution, and the other held in 1900 to usher in the new century. Opening the fair in 1900, the French prime minister said, "The forces of nature are subdued and tamed; steam and electricity have become our obedient servants; the machine is crowned queen of the world... Science serves us ever more diligently and is conquering ignorance and poverty. " His words expressed the great optimism, and the faith in science and technology, with which the 20 th century began. In the 1870 's, a small group of artists, called Impressionists, started an art revolution with their new style of painting. Their art celebrated modern everyday life in vibrant colors. Before the Impressionists, most European art depicted grand and dramatic scenes from history, myth, and religion.

Artists painted everything in sharp detail with brushstrokes that were hardly visible and colors that were subdued. Instead, the Impressionists depicted ordinary scenes and fleeting moments in life. They painted in bigger, visible brushstrokes and used lighter, brighter colors. They particularly wanted to show the effects of light flickering and reflecting on people and things. The Impressionists' daring new style inspired a group of young artists who came to be known as the Post-Impressionists. The Post-Impressionists were inspired by the Impressionist artists, but each of them wanted to go beyond the depiction of fleeting moments in life.

Some of them wanted to paint scenes with a sense of permanence, others wanted to make their art more scientific, and all of them wanted to create images with deeper meaning. The Impressionists usually painted people with expressions that did not show their inner thoughts and feelings. Most of the Post-Impressionists wanted to paint people in a way that revealed their character or made a comment about society. Some of the Post-Impressionist artists believed that colors and patterns, all by themselves, expressed different feelings and moods, and they used various symbols in their art to convey deeper meaning. Several Post-Impressionists wanted to give a sense of timeless permanence to their art. They wanted to paint everyday scenes but imbue them with a classic order and solidity found in much older styles of art from ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and the Renaissance.

In the 1800 's, scientists made many discoveries about light and its spectrum of colors. The Post-Impressionists were among the first artists in history to apply scientific laws of light and color to their art. They used the discoveries of physicists and chemists in choosing which colors to place side by side to create various artistic effects. For centuries, paints were made from things like ground up beetles, burnt bones, and different kinds of metal and even precious stones. Some of the colors were bright, but many were muted and dull. In the mid- 1800 's, chemists found ways to produce many new and vibrant colors in their laboratories.

The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were the first artists to use these bright, new pigments. Van Gogh's early life provided little indication that he would later become an artist. As the son of a minister 1, he initially hoped to become an evangelist. However, his years of attempted evangelism were something of a failure, despite his commendable efforts toward assisting humanity.

Van Gogh had difficulty expressing him to others; his many failed attempts at love were further proof of this. As Robert Wallace stated, "Throughout his life Van Gogh was given to weaving dreams in which he saw the world not as it was but as he wanted it to be; when he exposed his dreams he was devastated to find that no one shared them (11). Hence, Van Gogh's ideals and his perceptions of the world differed from the way others perceived the world, and this made communication to most people challenging. This difficulty in communicating to the majority of the public made Van Gogh something of a poor minister, although sincere and well meaning. As a result, Van Gogh ended his study of ministry. With his decision to become an artist, Van Gogh rejected organized religion, although his interest in a sort of spirituality did not diminish.

Instead, his sense of spirituality became his artwork. As he had enjoyed sketching as a child, and his uncle was a respected art dealer, Van Gogh had always had some exposure to art. At the suggestion of his brother, Theo, to whom Van Gogh was especially close, Van Gogh became an artist; there has been much speculation about why Van Gogh made this decision. Art was regarded as a worthy cause in Van Gogh's family. Since he had dismissed organized religion, Van Gogh perhaps resorted to art in order to bring himself closer to his family. Above all else, Van Gogh became an artist because he was able to communicate through this medium.

Van Gogh's interest in art became a substitute for religion in his life (Wallace 16). His spirituality became more personal, perhaps, as it was based more on his own artwork, his new form of communication, and less on his failed ministry. Van Gogh's artwork and taste evolved dramatically during the ten years of his career. Early in his career, Van Gogh's taste was somewhat inconsistent. He admired Rembrandt's Jewish Bride, but he also enjoyed the work of sever along-forgotten graphic artists whose work appeared in magazines. The common denominator in his early influences was the theme of destitution; he was more influenced by the destitution depicted in a work than the style of the painting.

Hence, Van Gogh's early taste was more focused on subject than on style or the artist's portrayal of the subject (Wallace 10). During his career, this belief grew. Although Van Gogh's work expresses a consistent commitment toward an interest in its subject, his later works express the fascination with color he developed as a result of his encounters with Impressionism and the brilliant colors of Japanese artwork. In addition to a growing fascination with color, Van Gogh's style became more distinct and original as he grew older and, perhaps, as his mind disintegrated. Whereas initially his style was somewhat traditional and unrefined, he eventually became interested in Seurat's Pointillist style; this possibly let to the swirling brush strokes that later became his signature.

The early work of Van Gogh was characterized by images of destitution rendered in dark colors. Van Gogh's portrayal of peasantry is simple and candid; his early paintings generally depicted peasant lifestyle: working in the fields, chopping wood, or, in the case of this period's most famous piece, The Potato Eaters, eating potatoes. As Robert Wallace commented, an Gogh was intrigued by the clothes of the working peasants, for he felt that their faded homespun garments were revealing of their characters; he had no interest in seeing peasants in their "Sunday best.".. He wanted to show their human condition, not portray individuals. (22 - 23) As a result, Van Gogh's early work often is vague.

Distinct facial features, for example, are often not shown on characters in his early paintings, although this may merely indicate his unrefined style and his undeveloped skill. It may also indicate his wish to portray the peasantry as a group of people, generally having similar lives, suffering from similar problems, and being faced with similar tasks. During these first five years of Van Gogh's artistic career, he lived in Holland. After this period, he moved to Paris, where exposure to Impressionism caused Van Gogh to open his palette to the bright colors, which became characteristic of his later work. 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 Cafe. The Night Cafe 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 Cafe, colors and the placement of objects are not necessarily presented accurately from a physical point of view, but The Night Cafe is a depiction of Van Gogh's perception of the cafe.

Gauguin had painted the same cafe; he had displayed people sitting near one another and gazing "boldly around them" (Russell 39). Van Gogh's cafe, 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 cafe 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. Bibliography: Bailey, Martin.

ed. , Van Gogh: Letters from Provence (1990) Hammacher, Abraham M. Genius and Disaster: The Ten Creative Years of Vincent van Gogh (1968) Philpott R. J. Van Gogh (1984) Vincent van Gogh, The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, trans.

by J. Van Gogh-Bonger and C. de Dood, 3 vols. (1958; repr. 1979) McQuillan, Melissa. Van Gogh (1989) Wallace, Robert. The World of Van Gogh. New York: Time-Life Books (1969) Shapiro, Meyer.

Van Gogh. New York: Henry Holt Company (1990)

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Research essay sample on Vincent Van Gogh Brush Strokes

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