A willingness to experiment with
perspective and style is often the determining factor between a competent artist
and a master. A new exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, "Van Gogh Up
Close," takes a compelling look at the choices Vincent van Gogh made with
depth, line, and perspective that helped him create many of his seminal works,
and who could resist picking up a few pointers from this master Dutch painter?
Undergrowth with Two Figures by Vincent van Gogh, 1890, oil painting, 19½ x 39¼.
The exhibition examines Van Gogh's study
of nature between 1866, when he left Antwerp for Paris, and his death in 1890.
Through his daring use of bold colors and his abandonment of traditional
oil painting techniques, Van Gogh sought an engagement between the viewer and his depictions
of nature, be it a wide view of a wheat field at harvest or an intimate depiction
of almond blossoms in full bloom. His experimentation brought many of his
compositions "up close" into the foreground, allowing a much more personal view
of his depictions of the world.
Almond Blossom by Vincent van Gogh,
1890, oil painting, 28 15/16 x 36¼.
Upon reaching Paris, Van Gogh
initially moved in with his brother Theo and focused on still life paintings,
investigating detailed aspects of scale, angle, and color. Later, the
landscapes he creates in Saint-Rémy and Auvers in 1889 and 1890 showed more large-scale
structures and complex compositions. The 45 paintings in "Van Gogh Up Close" run
the gamut of his experimentations in these final years of his life, yet all
retain the drama and dreamlike flair that he infused in all of his works.
The exhibition will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until
May 6, but the exploration of master artists and their groundbreaking
experimentations doesn't end there. American Artist magazine is a constant
source of exhibition updates and "up close and personal" feature articles of
how capable artists become masters.
The May issue includes composition advice
from fantasy and commercial artist Gregory Manchess, an examination of Howard
Pyle's powerful influence, and a study of how pulp artist Everett Raymond Kinstler developed his own style to
become one of today's great portraitists. The issue is available now in
print and eBook formats, so why wait to take the leap into the company of
James is the assistant editor of American Artist magazine.