Sunday, June 8, 2014

Post-Impressionism (pt. 9)

The artist painted this scene of his Bedroom in Arles shortly after finishing The Night Café, and here we feel equally drawn into a cozy environment while once again feeling incredibly alone.  Here there are no people.  There are two doors, two windowpanes, two chairs, two portraits, two drawings, and two pillows—but only one person.  Van Gogh never married, but instead lived alone.  Here we can no doubt feel some of his loneliness.  Nearly all objects are painted in pairs, but the bed, like an enormous tombstone, stands awkwardly alone.  Through this painting we are not granted any profound insight into subject matter: since the subject is merely a still life-type look at the artist's bedroom (nothing significant about that).  It is instead an insight into the artist's own mind, his feelings and thoughts, more than it is a statement about any external subject.  The painting is of the bedroom, but the theme rests in the room's sole inhabitant.  They say a lot can be told about a person based on looking at the room in which he or she lives.  In the same way, Van Gogh has poured a lot of himself into the painting he has created.  This is self-expression through art, not analysis or coverage of an outside topic, like, say, sunlight or the king of France.  This painting is created within the confines of the painter's own knowledge of himself; but instead of a self-portrait we see his bedroom.  He has translated qualities of himself to an external subject, but it is still primarily about an expression of himself.
This type of approach to art would earn Vincent Van Gogh the label of Expressionist painter.  As Impressionism took from Realism in the sense that it sought to paint the physical world as it really appeared (or as it was impressed upon someone at a given moment of time), Expressionism did not take inspiration from the material world.  This kind of art functioned solely to convey the emotional feelings and reactions to various subjects.  Like Symbolism, this style focused on abstracts.  Van Gogh painted what he felt, not what he saw.  If the leading Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, painted exclusively as an eye; then this artist painted solely as a heart.  This could inspire how he painted objects, as well.

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