Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Van Gogh's sunflowers

100 swallows does a fantastic blog which I read regularly, enjoying the stories of Artists and Sculptors he tells and occasionally being inspired by a comment or work he has posted. I recommend you visit him too.

Now I am not on the whole an argumentative type, but I sometimes disagree and can’t resist the urge to say so.

Sunflowers, (origin from other side of pond.)
In the Cognac region of Northern France in September you will see them I think!
To my mind sunflowers are sometimes impressive, sometimes colourful, sometimes eye catching and fun for children to grow. Hamsters like their seeds. But in the pecking order of flowers they rank near the top only in the size category. In other categories for example; colour, insipid yellow; shape or form, common and dull, and so on.

So why does a rather mediocre artist get so much praise for such a dull subject, it really beats me. (The most wonky jugs too.)

Nice story though see here: http://100swallows.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/van-goghs-sunflowers/



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert: Thank you for the nice things you say about my blog. I am happy to have your visits there. As you know, I come here often too--and get shocked by some of the things you say!

How can you call Van Gogh a mediocre artist? He has been around long now and the critical consensus is firm: he is one of the all-time greats. You may dislike his style and his subjects but you simply must admit his power. Not everything is a question of personal taste. Of course he is like no one else. Perhaps he strikes you like those sunflowers he paints: rural (not for a fine vase in the parlor), big and coarse (no good next to fine chinaware), honest but not witty or sweet or cute. I understand that. But if you don't see that there is something almost bewitching about his pictures (whether the color of the drawing), you had better sit down with a book of them again and try. No one has ever been able to put such a strange siren-call into his work. It is actually spooky. But then if you plug your ears with wax as you go by....

4:25 pm  
Blogger Robert said...

The 20 Century; “The Era of Pre-Leonardo”
The article titled “The Pre-Picassan Brotherhood” by Laura Alport contains three memorable sentences.

We have all been taught in our art history classes that the great subjects have been exhausted, that there is "nothing new under the sun." That epic or transcendent imagery is not relevant to our situation. The Brotherhood apparently missed that day.
Of course there is a revival of sorts in such websites as Art Renewal


but Laura’s right, the academics have fuelled ‘what is art’ for centuries and the galleries, new on the scene, have helped by the supply of works to satisfy that. I recommend this excellent essay on that subject.


I morn the loss of a generation caught between their training and belief, and a sudden turning on its head of all that was considered ‘Art’ for 2000 years. It was a short transformation from harmony to discord, not for beauty sake but for the opposite; greed and ugliness. Of course the world was in need of a shake up and the 20 c did that all right. It is however in the fringes of painting that I feel so unhappy and this is where Van Gogh fits in. His works are still popular after a hundred years, so I would agree that he has arrived but I despair because I can’t see why!

Swallows, I have looked at Van Gogh recently, he is well covered over there on his chair (a copy of it is in a drawer in my studio!).


I find Munch spooky; VG and Gauguin are just primitive. Faithful representation of an object is not the way forward, but I think it needs to be believable. Once you have learnt perspective how easy is it to go back to a child-like lack of it? I do not want a hand painted photographic image that is like a ‘spotlessly clean house’ a sign of a wasted life. The Great masters of impressionism (especially Turner who I consider one) were believable and showed the new way. The photograph replaced the need for accurate images it was the special ingredient the artist added (or left out) that mattered more than ever before but not at the total expense of ‘believability’. (For example Lowry is not believable).

Art is ‘The expression of emotion’ but we need to understand the vehicle and experience the emotion or else it is a waste of space or paint. For an Academic to tell us it is good is not enough, we have got to question and think and then accept of decline.Just because everyone else thinks he is good is not necessarily a good reason to believe it; we learnt that with Hitler’s Germany!

In music I feel that there was progression despite the earthquake, Scot Joplin and Gershwin survived with Shostakovich and Ravel, but in the Visual arts it seems to me somewhat different. VG fits neither of these groups, not even a Vaughn Williams or Richard Rodney Bennet.


It is the academics that have fuelled this and VG and his like were the catalyst. I recon we have gone back to a period before 1500 AD, a new era pre-Leonardo.


10:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks like the sunflowers I used to see at home in northern Ohio but not like the ones around here in central Spain. Yours looks like it is trying to be a flower comme il faut. I don't blame you for snubbing it. The dry, twisted,Spanish versions seem rather to think they are thistles and try for another character. I give these and their ambitions high points.

9:21 pm  
Blogger Marly Youmans said...

I had a great fascination with Munch in my late teen years, and remember being upended by a huge show in London... Recently there was a smaller one in MOMA, and he simply wasn't the same for me because I was not the same...

Very interesting to hear you on Van Gogh and Gaugin. So you call them "primitives": that seems very apt for Gaugin, with his interest in African art and folk art (and maybe Japanese woodblocks took him in the direction of simpler blocks of color), but it doesn't quite hit Van Gogh for me. But interesting all the same!

2:46 pm  

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