We will begin our assessment of Early Modernism—1890 to 1945+—by examining the work of the great Dutch master Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). With the work of Vincent we see the development of a distinct avant-garde both in product and aesthetic mentality. We also see the ramifications of artists turning “one’s back” on the established Western European patronage through the emergence of the “starving artist” syndrome. The life and work of Vincent certainly epitomizes that transformation from artists being celebrated by the wealthy class to being disparaged, ridiculed and isolated. Such consequences were unfortunate within the bigger picture of Early Modernism for sure, but in the case of Vincent, these punitive efforts of society would have long lasting and very extended aftereffects into the next century. As we will see in our Thursday class meeting, Vincent was very authentic and genuine in what he wanted to give to society through his art. In an 1888 letter to his brother Theo, Vincent wrote the following: “In a painting I want to say something comforting in the way that music is comforting. I want to paint men and women with that element of the eternal that was formerly symbolized by the halo, and that we try to express by the actual radiance and vibration of our colours.”
What are your thoughts on the artist Vincent van Gogh in general and, after reading and reflecting on his words to Theo, his work as an artist of Early Modernism?
Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1889
Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait at the Easel, 1888