Van Gogh and Gauguin
Before Van Gogh and Gauguin color was translated literally on the canvas. How dare you use yellow for the grass and red for the sky.
Van Gogh talks about color as means of expression, as a power, “I am know going to be the arbitrary colorist. I exaggerate the fairness of the hair, I even to orange tones, chromes and pale citron-yellow. Behind the head, instead of painting the ordinary wall of the mean room, I paint infinity, a plain background of the richest intensest blue that I can contrive…I get a mysterious effect, like a star in the depths of an azure sky.”
Van Gogh, Sunflowers, c. 1888
The flowers seem to melt in the vibrant background of the same color and wash out their vibrancy. They droop and curl over and some have lost their peddles. They seem in dialogue with one another rather then with their surroundings. Every hue has a lick of yellow that makes the mood sickly, unlike the kind of yellow of the sun. Their rejection of the sun is mimicked through the color. Not only are they constrained by color but also by the frame. They remain within the frame but read as though they are gazing off the plane by their crumbling, twisting gestures, visual arrows, and the accents of the pure white and black. They search left, right, down, and straight ahead, but not one gazes up to their nourishing sun.
Van Gogh, The Potato Eaters, c. 1885
Gauguin uses color as a vehicle for expression as well. However he doesn’t seem to set a mood as powerful as Van Gogh seems to set.
Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going, 1897
This piece certainly feels tranquilly and exotic through his use of tranquil blues in the back ground and warm, vibrant yellows in the foreground. However, I think that separates him the most from Van Gogh is the brush strokes. Van Gogh’s strokes are more expressive and create a mood that is more powerful than any of Gauguin’s.
Or it very well could be that crazy people are just better painters.>