Exactly 126 years ago Vincent van Gogh died in his bed, suffering from a gunshot wound from two days before. It has always been assumed that he committed suicide and shot himself in the chest, but recently another conception, that he was shot accidentally by a boy he knew, who had “a malfunctioning gun”, gained popularity. More about it you will find in our free mobile app DailyArt (download it for iOS/Android). Here, we wanted to focus on something extraordinary and show you 7 van Gogh’s masterpieces you have probably never seen. Everyone knows Starry Night and here we want to go beyond that. These pieces are not typical for his oeuvre and probably this is the reason why they are not that popular. Enjoy!
1. Recumbent nude, 1887
In 1886, Vincent van Gogh arrived to Paris, where he became acquainted with the impressionists. His palette here is so different from the one we know from The Potato Eaters. But the realism of that painting is visible also here – the nude is not exactly an idealized beauty. She is painted rather roughly, her face in particular is barely developed beyond a sketch. Van Gogh made three other, similar nudes, a pencil drawing and two paintings. The same model appears to have posed in all the works. This is probably Agostina Segatori, owner of the café Le Tambourin on the Boulevard du Clichy, with whom Van Gogh had a brief relationship.
2. Girl in a wood, 1882
In the summer of 1882, Van Gogh was able to buy his own oil paints for the first time, thanks to a financial bonus from his brother Theo. This is one of the first paintings he created then. Van Gogh remarked at how much he enjoyed the work and explained how he wishes to trigger the audience’s senses and how they may experience the painting: “The other study in the wood is of some large green beech trunks on a stretch of ground covered with dry sticks, and the little figure of a girl in white. There was the great difficulty of keeping it clear, and of getting space between the trunks standing at different distances – and the place and relative bulk of those trunks change with the perspective – to make it so that one can breathe and walk around in it, and to make you smell the fragrance of the wood.” What’s interesting, van Gogh most likely painted it on his knees – which is apparent from the low perspective. Also the research has also found that pieces of oak leaves from the forest floor have become lodged in the paint.
3. The Dance Hall in Arles, 1888
This painting shows an evening at the Folies-Arlésiennes, a dance hall on Boulevard des Lices in Arles. It was created in mid-December, when van Gogh worked again together with Paul Gauguin. The two men dreamt of founding a “studio of the Midi” but quickly Van Gogh’s character was too intense for Gauguin. Anyway, Gauguin’s influence is clear here as Van Gogh scrupulously applied the principles of cloisonnism developed by his friend. The reference to Japanese art is also evident, with the unusual elevation of the horizon, and in the strange, decorative foreground where the curves and counter curves of the hair are dominant.
4. The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt)
Copies were an important group of paintings created between 1887 and early 1890. While resting at Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Van Gogh did more than 30 copies of works by some of his favorite artists. As you can see, he didn’t replicate the paintings, he translated the subject and composition to his own language. In The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt), van Gogh drastically trimmed the composition of Rembrandt’s etching and eliminated the figure of Christ, focusing on Lazarus and his sisters. Some art historians say that in their countenances may be detected the likenesses of the artist and his friends Augustine Rouline and Marie Ginoux. Van Gogh had just recovered from a lengthy episode of illness, and he may have identified with the miracle of the biblical resurrection, whose “personalities are the characters of my dreams.”
5. Torso of Venus, 1886
Van Gogh created various sketches of this subject. This painting was created before them, during his stay in Paris. It featured an aspect of realism. Van Gogh also painted other sculptures.
6. Head of a skeleton with a burning cigarette, 1886
Van Gogh created this rather macabre painting while he was at the art academy in Antwerp. It was probably painted as a humorous comment on conservative academic practices – before painting live human models, the academic routine would have included studies of skeletons, to develop an understanding of human anatomy, and van Gogh was bored to death with it. It is also considered a vanitas or memento mori, at a time when Van Gogh himself was in a poor health. Although often interpreted as a criticism of smoking, Van Gogh was a keen smoker himself, and continued to smoke until his death in 1890.
7. Flowering Plum Orchard (after Hiroshige), 1887
Van Gogh was a great admirer of Japanese art. He wrote to his brother Theo: “Just think of that; isn’t it almost a new religion that these Japanese teach us, who are so simple and live in nature as if they themselves were flowers?” The artist altered original colours of the prints and added borders filled with calligraphic characters he borrowed from other prints.
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