Monday, January 10, 2011

Van Gogh Deja-Vu

My version of Vincent's Chair - Oil on canvas 28" x 36"

When I was working on my undergrad degree I had an art history class in which we were given an interesting option. We could either write a scholarly report on an artist of our choice from the period or make a copy painting instead. For me the choice was easy and I immediately chose the painting option. I had always admired impressionist painters and Vincent  Van Gogh in particular. I didn't realize at the time how difficult it would be to research his materials and working methods, let alone find adequate reproductions from which to work. Of course observing the actual painting firsthand would have helped, but given that the painting I chose was at the National Gallery in London, that was not an option. I did my best to replicate Vincent's work and got an A on my project.

Vincent's Chair, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

My professor noted that it was one of the best Van Gogh copies she had ever seen, though looking back I realize I made numerous mistakes in my interpretation. First off, I did not concern myself enough with finding suitable materials and the relatively smooth cotton canvas I used does not come close to the course textured weave of the original. My attempts at the thick paint stokes of Van Gogh also pale by comparison. I managed a certain level of paint thickness, but having seen many originals by Van Gogh since then, I realize how skimpy my application was in certain areas. Also, I suspect my colors are not all that accurate particularly in the turquoise blue of the door and some of the yellows tend more toward to green than to the orange that I think they should (never having seen the original, it's hard to say). That said, it was a fascinating exercise and one that I think is valuable to any artist looking to learn the process of a master painter. Such deconstruction is a time honored technique for students as long as you don't get sucked in to the art forgery end of the business like John Myatt did in the late 1980's and early 1990's. That is a subject for another post.


Sylvia Liu said...

very nice!

Jack Foster said...

Hey Greg! Love the deja van gogh! Totally cool!

INDIGENE said...

Vincent is my favorite of all times! What a great take on the subject! I think you did a fine job!

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Nice copy! Copying artwork is one of the best exercises an artist can do, but nobody wants to do it. I did some copies back when I was trying to educate myself (after art school) but the enthusiasm for it waned after a while, despite the huge and immediate improvement in my painting technique. Thanks for the reminder, maybe I will try this again.

Anonymous said...

This is really impressive! I too am a fan of Van Gogh. Two years ago my family went to Europe to tour the places Van Gogh lived. Arles was my absolute favorite since you would see the actual sites where he painted and see the buildings now. Yes, the Night Cafe' still exists; I had lunch there! :) It was a fantastic trip and I would truly recommended it.