The almond blossoms - 1890
Vincent Van Gogh is a Dutch painter who tried his hand first at art dealing but without any real interest and then to religion as a theologian. As he could not find his way in any of these efforts, he decided to join one of his younger brothers, Theo, and moved to Paris. There, Vincent met many artists and dove with all his body and soul into painting with a very particular style. We were in 1880.
A few years earlier he had done his first sketches and paintings while he was still a theologian, but these early works were dark and his particular style was not yet apparent.
It is the impressionist movement and his encounters in Paris that pushed him to change his color palette and thus revive his paintings. Japanese art also influenced his paintings until the end of his life through the trees in bloom and the many references to Japanese paintings.
After a few years in Paris, Vincent dreamed of creating a community of artists at the service of the Human kind. He decided to go to the South of France, to Arles, where one of his friends, Paul Gauguin, joined him to collaborate, in 1888. The two friends were looking for color and deep shades to find the origin of what has inspired the oriental art, including the Japanese one.
Unfortunately, the artist began to have psychotic attacks, and one day, this crisis pushed him to mutilate himself, cutting off his ear. This event coincided with an argument with his friend Gauguin who decided to return to Paris. We were in December 1888.
In order to be treated, Vincent asked to be interned in May 1889 in the South of France.
From then on, his paintings reflect a lot of suffering and loneliness. However, in February 1890, his brother, Theo, announced that he had just had a son, named Vincent.
It was during the most troubled period of the artist's life that he rediscovered his love of painting and created a colorful and magnificent work in honor of the new life that had just begun. His nephew, who bears the same name as him.
This artistic work is the Almond Blossoms.
He committed suicide in July 1890, near Paris, without wealth or recognition, despite the efforts of his brother, Theo, a gallery owner. His art remained misunderstood until his last day.
Today Vincent Van Gogh is recognized as one of the greatest painters in Europe, his works can be seen in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
Caspar David Friedrich, Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (Wanderer above the Sea of Fog), 1817
Romanticism is part of our everyday language, we regularly use it to describe a feeling, an attention we receive, or a state of mind. But it is much more than a love impulse. Romanticism is an artistic movement that originated in Germany in the 18th century and spread to the rest of Europe throughout the 19th century.
In painting, theatre and literature, the Romantic movement was in opposition to the realist and rational movements. Romanticism in art is not the expression of love between two people, it is a movement on its own with its own codes, artistic works that allowed to reflect and accompany the transformations of European societies of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Romantic artists are fascinated by freedom and seek to free themselves from the rules, so they will change the codes and propose a new interpretation of the world surrounding them. They turned to dreams, to more abstract lines, and gave a predominant place to nature and the endless horizons. Romanticism is not only the poetic escape of the mind, it is also about letting the feelings going free to express them as they are and not how the society would like them to be.
Feelings that are expressed more freely, offering a new palette of colours. Romanticism does not only express love, but also melancholy, nostalgia, sadness, joy, drama. All emotions have their place and each one takes on a colour, a trait of its own according to the artist's hand.
Romanticism is also the period of poetry and theatre, feelings are drawn, written, sung and played.
An artistic romanticism that is much broader than what we call romanticism today.
One of the emblematic works of this movement is Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, from 1817 by the artist Caspar David Friedrich (German).
This work is a perfect example of what Romanticism brought to the art movement and how it transformed it. A solitary man viewed from his back looking at sea of fogs, a distant horizon, the sky and the earth overlapping among the mountains, a contrast of black and white increasing the feeling of vertigo. What is he doing? What is he observing? This painting calls for calm, tranquillity, solitude, but also for questioning and curiosity. A melancholy, an uncertainty about the place, about the person, about the topic.
Romanticism means leaving room for emotions and imagination so that everyone can immerse themselves in their own interpretation and introspection.
Portraiture is the art of representing a person through drawing, painting or photography. The representation can be done from different angles: full-length, bust, profile, three-quarter view or self-portrait.
Portrait comes from the Latin portrahere which means to reveal to the light, to expose. The ambition of a portrait is therefore to do more than simply copy reality but to reveal the person through an artistic representation.
Since prehistoric times, through antiquity, the Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Cubism and photography, all artistic movements have been interested in the portrait. First of all, to represent everyday scenes and to pay homage during funeral ceremonies, or as a means of introducing one person to another in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In fact, when marriages were arranged between people from different regions or countries, it was easier to send a portrait to introduce the bride to her future husband.
Over the centuries, the art became more democratic, and it was no longer the privilege of rich people to be painted but it also became accessible for everyday people to celebrate happy events such as a wedding or a birth, or to keep a souvenir.
Jan Van Eyck's full-length portrait is a key work, on one hand as it symbolises the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and on the other hand because it introduces new elements such as the mirror with a mise abyme of the scene. More than an innovative work, it is a portrait that continues to question historians. For several decades now, interpretations have multiplied as to the origin of the work, its purpose and what it represents.
Indeed, the artist wrote above the mirror "Johannes de Eyck fuit hic", which raises an initial question as to the meaning of "fuit hic", which can be translated as "was here" or "was this one". However, the painter's self-portraits would invalidate the second interpretation, even though some analysts have noted numerous similarities between the woman in this portrait and Van Eyck's wife. Taking into account the reflection in the mirror we see two people, we can therefore assume that the painter represented himself in this portrait, which consequently becomes a self-portrait, an innovation in the world of painting.
Continuing our discovery of the picture we could think that we are facing a couple, perhaps getting married, or celebrating a happy event, if we consider that the woman is pregnant. Nevertheless, some doubts arise as to this probability. It was common for a woman of that time to wear a raised dress and display a prominent belly as a sign of fertility, so it is unlikely that she is pregnant. Expert opinion is more focused on a marriage where it was common for the time not to have a priest and where two witnesses were required. However, other experts question the celebration of such an event, or at least a happy celebration. Firstly, the dark outfit of the man contrasts with the woman's outfit and the look that is not directed at her, then, the left hand from the man that unite the two supposed lovers, a left hand that at the time represented the devil, the impure side, these two hands are in the centre of the painting surmounted by the representation of a small devil, when a dog is at the bottom of the painting, a sign of fidelity. On the left side of the painting there are fruits, some of them oranges and other apples, innocence or sin ? At the top of the painting a chandelier, a single candle is lit, a sign of wealth or poverty? Bad luck or hope? This painting is full of details and questions, not forgetting the outline of the mirror with the religious representations.
Various research and theories have led historians to identify the man as a bourgeois named Arnolfini, but his wife died in childbirth in 1433, which would be in opposition to the handwritten inscription by Van Eyck dated 1434, however this could explain the contradictory symbolism of the work.
We also invite you to explore the details of this work, which you can see on the website of the National Gallery in the United Kingdom, where the painting is exhibited: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jan-van-eyck-the-arnolfini-portrait
The Impressionist movement developed in Paris in the second half of the 19th century, with famous artists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and others as its main representatives. Although originally developed in the field of painting, it influenced both literature and music.
The movement was a reaction against the academic aesthetic in painting, the pretentious “art of the atelier” and the restrictions it imposed on subject matter (e.g. historical and religious subjects, portraits, etc.) and the techniques that painters were required to follow (e.g. use of a specific colour palette, etc.).
Impressionist painters wanted to capture the immediate impression of an object or an everyday image rather than a realistic representation of it. The main characteristics of their works are vivid, bright and intense colours, outdoor compositions, emphasis on the representation of light, and unusual angles in the representation of images. Their subject matter mainly includes landscapes or scenes of everyday life with ordinary people.
Outdoor painting in the 1860s brought a real revolution in the art of painting, as until then artists had only painted in studios. It enabled painters to use a palette that allowed for the analysis of the true colours of nature. Their interest in the play of light was a real innovation for their time. It is significant that Monet had painted a storm at every hour of the day, at every time of the year.
In their works, the Impressionists used small and often obvious brushstrokes that created a characteristically thick layer of paint on the canvas. Impressionists created a new approach of colors and shadows, they stopped using dark colors to use mostly primary and vivid colors to create visual effects by bringing colors next to each other.