Becoming Van Gogh

by Sarah Judson February 11, 2013

The recent exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, Becoming Van Gogh, displayed his diligent work and progress during his ten-year career. It included pencil drawings and ink & watercolor studies as well as many of his lesser-known oil paintings. You can see how his distinct brush-strokes developed from his practice of drawing with pencil or ink. He did take drawing classes, but he was mostly self-taught, and he learned much from his fellow painters, including Seurat, Pissarro and Gauguin. By the end of his short life, he had created over 2,000 works of art, mostly from life. The exhibit included paintings from artists who had influenced Van Gogh and also displayed a Japanese woodblock print, which illustrated how the concept of a flat picture plane with an all-over pattern entered the awareness of artists in ninteenth century Europe. There was also an example of a "perspective frame" similar to what Van Gogh used. This was a wooden frame with a grid pattern for the artist to observe the landscape through, which would enable him to accurately translate elements of the landscape onto his two-dimensional canvas. Up on the walls, in large lettering, were many quotes from Van Gogh's writings. They were all quite inspiring. Here are two: "Drawing is at the root of everything, and time spent on that is actually all profit." "The uglier, older, meaner, iller, poorer I get, the more I wish to take my revenge by doing brilliant color, well arranged, resplendent." An intriguing note at the end of the exhibit stated that the background of this Portrait with Straw Hat had originally been bright mauve, which has faded over time. That would be interesting to see!

Sarah Judson
Sarah Judson


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