Painting of the Day

28 Feb

Houses at Auvers. by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Oil on canvas, 1890. Currently on view at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Notes from

In May 1890, van Gogh moved from the south of France to Auvers, northwest of Paris, painting many of his finest pictures there in a feverish spurt of activity before his suicide in July. Houses at Auvers shows the landscape of early summer. The view from above creates a flattened tapestry of shapes in which the tiled and thatched roofs of the houses form a mesmerizing patchwork of color.

My comments:

I’m not the biggest fan of van Gogh, but I think this painting is really wonderful. I would call it one of the best works I’ve seen by him. He has very  finger-like brushstrokes that flicker on the canvas like flames. Although patterning is an important feature of almost any painting, it’s usually more subtle than the patterning we can see her. There are blocks of color that act like lily pads that you could hop to from the foreground in the painting all the way to the back, even into the sky.

But if anyone had only seen computer images of van Gogh paintings all their life without seeing any in person, they would be only half able to take in all that is a van Gogh painting, for the texture and thickness of van Gogh’s paint application is incredibly unique and acts as a huge deciding factor in the analysis of the artwork. Here it’s pretty hard to see the thickness of the artist’s brushstrokes, but if you could imagine it, it gives the painting a whole new restless energy.

In this painting van Gogh does not juxtapose as many complementary color blocks as he does in other paintings such as The Night Cafe and Still Life with Crows. Because of this it makes the painting have a more pleasant and less frightening tone. It makes it interesting that this painting came in the last year of van Gogh’s life. Although by this point he had moved away from the asylum and into a commune near his doctor and Theo, I don’t think it necessarily meant van Gogh was feeling better psychologically. Having read a huge biography on him by Gregory White-Smith and Steven Naifeh (which I reviewed on this blog), I don’t think that van Gogh was ever in a state of mind where he was not clinically insane, except for maybe early childhood. So while this painting looks fairly happy in tone and might be expected to be produced by a put-together, content person, I remain suspicious. It was probably made during one of van Gogh’s manic episodes, as he often appeared in his life to go through periods of great happiness and others of great depression. No matter what his mood, however, he was always frenetically painting. And demanding money from Theo.

One Response to “Painting of the Day”

  1. tara February 28, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    you had to get a shot in about his relatiuonship with his brother…..

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