Farmer in the Field, 1888, Vincent
Van Gogh, Dutch, (1853-1890), oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston. Reproduction print
Vincent van Gogh grew up in an educated Dutch family; his father
was a minister and his uncle an art dealer. He pursued many careers
such as teacher, art dealer, and missionary preacher. His
generosity, compassion and deep desire to understand his fellow men
were misunderstood by the Belgian coal miners with whom he lived and
to whom he preached until his dismissal in 1880. Around this time he
began to sketch copies of Jean Francois Millet's somber peasants and
later to take anatomy and perspective lessons in Brussels. Van
Gogh's early self-training showed intense visual perception which
developed into a sinuous, flame-like style with brilliant colors. At
the age of 33 he moved to Paris to live with his brother Theo. There
he was influenced by the Impressionists, Pointiallists, and by the
flat planes and vigorous outlines of Japanese prints. After moving
to St. Remy and in Auvers, where he died, he painted vivid
passionate works, expressive of his tormented life.
Van Gogh's Farmer in the Field reflects his use of
brilliant colors and the influence of the "flat planes and vigorous
outlines" of Japanese prints. His brush strokes, though somewhat
larger and thicker than the Impressionists and Pointiallists, still
demonstrate their influence upon his style. It is obvious that
Farmer in the Field is his perception of the scene. He places
little emphasis on figures; the two workers in the center are merely
blue outlines, dwarfed by the landscape. The right-hand figure, also
blue, is a whole person, although its sex is not easily determined.
The figure is balanced precariously on the lurching, rushing landscape
which is divided horizontally into four bands of color (red, green,
yellow and blue).
Note: Van Gogh's Farmer in the Field and Millet's The
Gleaners are included in this lesson for comparison.
The Gleaners, 1857, Jean
Francois Millet, French, (1814-1875), oil on canvas, Louvre Museum,
Paris. Reproduction print
Jean Francois Millet was the son of a French peasant. For a brief
time he trained under a local Cherbourg artist and then under
Delaroche in Paris where he was also influenced by Daumier. In 1849
he settled in Barbizon and painted genre subjects of peasants at
work and prayer. The Gleaners and The Angelus are
among his most representative works. Both are sentimental and
romantic scenes executed in a realistic style.
These quotes may help you enjoy the prints by Millet and Van Gogh.
They are from The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh.:
"The wood is becoming quite autumnal - there are effects of colour
which I rarely find painted in Dutch pictures."
"Yesterday towards evening I was busy painting a rather sloping
ground in the wood, covered with mouldered and dry beech leaves.
That ground was light and dark reddish brown, made more so by the
shadows of trees which threw more or less dark streaks over it,
sometimes half blotted out. The question was, and I found it very
difficult to get the depth of colour, the enormous force and
solidness of that ground - and while painting it I perceived only
for the first time how much light there still was in that dusk - to
keep that light, and to keep at the same time the glow and depth of
that rich colour."
"For you cannot imagine any carpet so
splendid as the deep brownish-red, in the glow of an autumn evening
sun, tempered by the trees."
"From that ground young beech
trees spring up which catch light on one side and are sparkling
gleen there, and the shadowy side of those stems are a warm deep
"Behind those saplings, behind that
brownish-red soil is a sky very delicate, bluish grey, warm, hardly
blue, all aglow - and against it is a hazy border of green and a
network of little stems and yellowish leaves. a few figures of wood
gatherers are wandering around like dark masses of mysterious
shadows. The white cap of a woman, who is bending to reach a dry
branch, stands out all of a sudden against the deep red-brown of the
ground. A skirt catches the light - a shadow fails - a dark
silhouette of a man appears above the underbrush. A white bonnet, a
cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman moulds itself against the sky.
Those figures, they are large and full of poetry - in the twilight
of that deep shadowy tone they appear as enormous clay figureines
being shaped in a studio."
"While painting it I said to myself: 'I must not go away before there is something of an autumn evening air about it, something mysterious, something serious.' "
Van Gogh admired Millet tremendously. Speaking of the developement of art -
"Up to Millet and Jules Breton... there was always in my opinion progress, but to surpass these two - don't even mention it! I must have a a foundation in these artists."
Van Gogh wanted his figures to live, not to be academically correct. He believed that Millet painted figures as he felt them; he painted the truth of the laborer in action.
Both Van Gogh and Millet painted the close connection of the peasant to the earth. How?
Haymaking, , Pieter Breughal,
Flemish (1525-1569), , The Narodi Gallery, Prague, reproduction print.
Pieter Breughal was one of the greatest
painters of the Netherlands. In 1551 he journeyed to Italy and was
deeply impressed with the art of the High Renaissance and the
dynamic landscape of Italy. He glorified the simple life of the
peasants at work and play. Notice how he keeps our eyes moving
around the picture by carefully spacing the colors and groups of
people. He leaves out shadows and confusing details.
False Mirror, 1928, Rene Magritte, Belgian
(1898-1967), oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York, reproduction print.
Rene Magritte was a well-known surrealist
painter born in Lessines, Belgium. He began to draw and paint at the
age of twelve and demonstrated n early taste for the unusual and the
bizarre. He studied art intermittently and in about 1918
Magrittebegan to search for a personal painting style. His earliest
work showed the influence of Futurism and by the early 1920s a form
of cubism became apparnet in his painting. As artistic movements and
he evolved a personal style which emphasized the meaning to an
overriding aesthetic effort.
Of Magritte, Suzi Gablik wrote: "When it came
to painting, he manifested an almost constitutional dislike,
feigning something between boredom, fatigue and disgust." Magritte's
is everyman's Surrealist and universally admired. His paintings
commend themselves, at least in reproduction, for their
craftsmanship and finish, and they appear almost Super-realist. His
work is dead-pan initially - the viewer takes a few seconds to
realize what is wrong with the scene depicted. Being unaware of the
meaning of the various symbols he uses is unimportant and does not
detract from an appreciation of the disjnction between the real
world and his depiction of it. It is in these slight and subtle
shifts in meaning that his Surrealism lies. His speciality - the
painting within a painting - is a further example of this
disjunction; it is at once bith a mystical experience which allows
us to question the nature of reality and also the basis for
considerable semantic speculation. There is no apparent reason or
consistency in Magritte's work - he delighted in ambiguity. If we
truly appreciate it, we do the same.
♦ Adams, Hugh, Modern Painting,
Mayflower Books, Inc NY 1979
What is wrong? What is real?
Virgin Forest at Sunset, 1907,
Henri Rousseau, French
(1844-1910), oil on canvas, Kunstmuseum, Basel, reproduction print.
Rousseau was a French customs officer (un Douanier) who taught
himself to paint by copying the masters in the Louvre. Later he
exhibited at the Salon des Independants. Rousseau's tranquil jungle
settings have a dreamlike quality and the forms of staring, hypnotic
animals are rendered in a bold naive style. Many of his works
reflect his lack of formal training - his past as a 'Sunday Painter'
- in the flatness of forms, the labored detail, the meticulous but
awkward finishing, the stiffness, the innacuracies of proportion and
perspective and an aim of naivete. However, his paintings have
something more. They have a decorative flair and an air of
enchantment. Rousseau could not so much as copy a picture postcard
(as he sometimes did) without transforming its trite realism into
his own distinctive unreality. His often exotic subject matter
intensifies and makes more obvious the other-wordliness inherent in
all his work.
The Virgin at Sunset particularly comes to life when
thinking about the sounds and noises in the jungle.
| Other ideas:
(example: are some plants prickly? some soft?)
How does the person feel? Frightened? Brave?
would you feel?
Chart of the Eye, graphic. Heritage
Our eyes all have the same parts and work in
the same ways. You might explain via use of the chart, parts of the
eye and how our eyes work - BRIEFLY.
This chart is included not just to teach the
physiology of the eye but more to help the children realize that
even though our eyes all work the same way, artists have found ways
to make each of us see something different when we look at
paintings. They use shapes and colors to depict things they see and
they paint them as they see them. Photography would capture things
as they are. artists do not all use the realism of photography in
their paintings. Many of them use the effects of light and color to
give us impressions of what they see.
This year our topic is Art and Observation.
Observation is defined as an act or power of seeing or of fixing the
mind upon something - the gathering of information by noting facts
or occurances (weather observation).
We observe often with our senses. Each person
who observes art will see something different. Sometimes it is a
realistic painting and you notice something that another person
might not find. Sometimes the artist doesn't paint as realistically
and he or she paints an idea or a thought. When we view that kind of
painting, we add our own ideas or thoughts.
Each time we visit, you will be observing
art. All of us have eyes and sight but our ideas about what we see
will be different. We will be looking at many types of art this
year. Think about not just the many different people who created it,
but also how much fun it will be to use our own observations to help
us see more.
There are as many ways to paint a picture
as there are artists. Paintings help us to share a person's way of
seeing. All artists look hard and think carefully about what they see.
These are not actual paintings, they are printed reproductions. However good they may be, printed reproductions are always very different from the original painting. To see paintings in their full glory you should visit an ar gallery or museum. But whether you are looking at the actual paintings or at reproductions, use our eyes and look.
An artist often has a difficult choice. Should he paint only hat he sees? Or should he paint what he knows is really there, even though it would be impossible to see it in real life? For example, some artists do not paint people exactly as they see them. They imagine how a perfect person would look, and take away all the faults and blemishes that exist in real life. On the other hand, many artists paint very realistically and include all the faults and imperfections.
Some painters do not want us to think about perfection or the exact way that people look. They want us to think about feelings. When you have strong desires or emotions they can very often seem to push you about in different directions. Artists sometimes distort faces on a person's face or body in real life.
Artists, as we have seen, have many ways of making pictures, but we should also realize that they paint for many reasons. Sometimes to make us imagine things we cannot see with our eyes or to make us share their dreams. Sometimes to make us think about ourselves and who we are. Sometimes just for the sake of showing the way pictures are made and how an artist uses things like colors, paint or brush strokes.
All great artists know that once you start to look and think and imagine, there is no reason ever to stop.
Cumming, Robert, Just Look... A Book About Painting, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1979
Things to think about:
What did each artist want to say?
How do the artists use light?