♣ No. II ~ Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette

Second post, and still going strong. How awesome is that? (Apparently, very awesome, because that – my lovelyz – was a rhetorical question with a wink)

Going from Salvador Dali all the way to the famous Dutch artist – who was, and still is, a great inspiration to many people around the world – Vincent Van Gogh.

Vincent Van Gogh [1853 – 1890]

Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands. He was famous for being one of the lead Post-Impressionists back in his days. His rough – yet beautiful, full of emotions, and full of bold colors – art had a great influence on the 20th century art.

Van Gogh had a tendency for art since his childhood, for he started drawing back then. He never stopped drawing at later stages in his life, until he finally decided he wanted to be an artist. He only began painting in his late twenties, and in just over a decade, he managed to produce about 2,100+ artworks that included more than 1,300 water colors, sketches, and drawings, as well as 860 oil paintings. The main themes or elements present in those paintings were cypress trees, flowers, wheat fields, etc. He painted numerous landscapes, still-lifes, and self-portraits.

Travelling between The Hague, Paris, and London, Van Gogh spent his early adulthood working with some solid art dealers. He taught for some time in England.  He began to sketch people around him in 1879 in Belgium. In 1885, he painted The Potato Eaters. At that time, his set of mutual colors found in most of his paintings consisted of mineral tones and reflected no vibrancy or vivid colors. This didn’t help in making his art stand out. Though, after living in France for a while, he discovered the French Impressionists. And later on, he moved to South of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight found there, and because of that, the colors he used grew brighter and more vibrant. This made his art become more distinguishable especially that – at that time – he had developed his own style which became fully realized whilst his stay in Arles in 1888.

Van Gogh died in July 29, 1890 after suffering of  massive attacks of mental illness. He died at the age of 37 from a gunshot wound – although no gun was anywhere to be found –  which was thought to be self-inflicted.

Note: Post-Impressionism is a term whom the British artist and critic, Roger Fry, came up with in 1910 to point at the progression of French art since Édouard Manet. PostImpressionism was all about expanding Impressionism and discard any boundaries. They kept on using vibrant colors, peculiar brush strokes, thick application of paint, as well as real-life subject matter. Though, what they did was they leaned more towards geometrical forms-emphasis, and also, they used random and unnatural colors.

The painting I’m going to be talking about today is Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette [1886]

 Oil on Canvas, 32 x 24.5 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent Van Gogh stitching)

Personally, I’ve had this painting as my avatar on a couple of forums, msn profile picture, desktop background – and as you can notice – I have it as my gravatar now. This has to show how much I like it. It’s the meaning behind a painting that actually gives it beauty as well. Some of you might think, “it’s just a stupid skeleton with a weird-looking cigarette sticking through his teeth. What’s so meaningful about it?”

Well, it’s not that at all. Yes, it does look like that, but obviously, there must be a meaning behind this somewhat morbid little painting, as in there’s a reason behind Van Gogh deciding to paint it.

The painting actually doesn’t have a specific date, but it’s known among the art-fans that it dates back to some time between 1885 and 1886, when Van Gogh was staying in Antwerp. He registered at the art academy after travelling from Nuenen – in November 1885 – in order for him to have the chance to draw and paint after the live model.

There, Van Gogh realized that students were learning art by studying plaster casts and copying prints. After enhancing their skills and preparing themselves for the next stage, they were allowed to start studying live models. For that sake, skeletons were usually used to help these people understand and get more familiar with the human anatomy.

For this reason, Van Gogh decided to paint that thing up there. This skull, or skeleton, with a  cigarette was actually meant to be some kind of joke. It was also meant to be considered as a comment on “conservative academic practice”.


~ by Núr on July 17, 2012.

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