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1. Creative Friendship and The Making of Modern art Vincent van Gogh & Paul Gauguin
Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and beget children -- this is the character of their love […]
But souls which are pregnant -- for there certainly are men who are more creative in their souls than in their bodies – conceive that which is proper for the soul to conceive or contain. And what are these conceptions? -- wisdom and virtue in general. And such creators are poets and all artists who are deserving of the name inventor. […]
He wanders about seeking beauty that he may beget offspring […] above all when he finds fair and noble and well-nurtured soul, […] he brings forth that which he had conceived long before, and in company with him tends that which he brings forth; and they are married by a far nearer tie and have a closer friendship than those who beget mortal children, for the children who are their common offspring are fairer and more immortal. Who, when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, would not rather have their children than ordinary human ones?
Socrates on the highest love
I had a dream the other day. I had written a beautiful book, a wonderful book, which you had illustrated with beautiful, wonderful pictures. Both of our names shone in letters of gold on the first page and, inseparable to this fraternity of genius, passed on to posterity.
Letter to Paul Cézanne from Emile Zola, c. 1863
…we shall enlarge our enterprise, and try to found a studio for a renaissance and not for a decadence. . . We are at the beginning of a very great thing, which will open a new era for us . . . We shall be giving our lives for a generation of painters that will last a long while.
Letter to Paul Gauguin from Vincent van Gogh, October 1888
In spite of out very different temperaments, we were guided by a common idea. . . .the differences didn’t count. . . . We lived in Montmartre, we saw each other every day, we talked. . . . It was a little like being roped together on a mountain.
Georges Braque on his friendship with Picasso
and the formulation of Cubism
5. Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist Painter, 1853-1890 (37 years) Paul Gauguin, French Post-Impressionist Painter, 1848-1903 (55 years)
6. Vincent Van Gogh, Self Portrait with Dark Felt Hat, 43 x 33 cm., Paris, Spring, 1886
7. (left) Van Gogh, Sorrow (Clasina Hoornik, called “Sien”) 1882 (right) Worn Out, 1882, both made in The Hague
9. (left) Vincent Van Gogh, Two Peasant Women Digging Potatoes, Neunen, 1885 (right) Jean-François Millet (French, 1814-1875) Gleaners, oil, 1857
12. With its calculated “ugliness” and religious overtones, The Potato Eaters (1885) is also an homage to Rembrandt's The Supper at Emmaus (1648) in the Louvre
I should be desperate if my figures were correct…. I do not want them to be academically correct….my great longing is to learn to make those very incorrectnesses, those deviations, remodelings, changes in reality, so that they may become, yes, lies if you like – but truer than literal truth.”
Van Gogh’s emphasis
15. Flora Tristan (1803 - 1844) grandmother of Paul Gauguin, a socialist writer and activist, one of the founders of modern feminism. Her father, Mariano Tristán y Moscoso, was an Arequipa-born Peruvian colonel of the Spanish Navy, and her mother, Anne Laisney, a Frenchwoman. Her parents met in Bilbao, Spain during her father's stay there. Tristan wrote best selling Peregrinations of a Pariah about her travels to Peru.
17. (Jacob) Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), an artist whose friendship and support provided encouragement for both Gauguin and Van Gogh Letter from Gauguin to Camille Pissarro, July 29, 1879 My dear Pissarro, I know an employee at the stock exchange who has asked me to buy two paintings for him for 300 F. Naturally, I intend to suggest some Pissarros to him and so upon your return, I would like for you to bring over a few, but in the 6 by 8 format–there is no need for them to be large. Don't be offended by what I am going to say, but you know as well as I do that the middle classes are difficult to please, so I would like this young man to have two paintings whose subjects are as pretty as possible. He is a young man who knows nothing at all about art, and does not pretend otherwise which is already something; however, some of your works could frighten him despite my influence on his judgment. So act for the best and see you soon. P Gauguin
18. Paul Gauguin (left), The Garden in Winter, rue Carcel, 1883, oil on canvas, private collection Camille Pissarro (right), Rabbit Warren at Pontoise, Snow, 1879, oil on canvas, Chicago Institute of Fine Art
19. Gauguin assumed the role of renegade artist in 1885 Gauguin, Four Breton Women Gossiping, 1886 First trip to Pont Aven – 4 months. Brittany’s peasant types were a pre-industrial subject that suited Gauguin’s emerging Primitivism
20. Gauguin, (left) Portrait of Charles Laval in Profile, 1886 (right) Martinique Landscape, 1887 Gauguin and Laval left for Panama and Martinique in 1886 and spent several months until illness forced them to return to France.
22. Everything his hands make has a gentle, pitiful, astonishing character.
Vincent van Gogh on the art of Paul Gauguin, Paris, 1887
23. The broken brushstrokes of bright spring colors as well as the choice of subject – a view of the Seine on the outskirts of Paris – mark the transformative influence of Impressionism on Van Gogh following his move to Paris. Compare Van Gogh’s 1887 painting to a 1868 composition by Claude Monet
24. Compare the Van Gogh Impressionist painting and a study by Neo-Impressionist Georges Seurat.
25. May 1886 Van Gogh saw the 8th Impressionist Exhibition which included Seurat’s Neo-Impressionist masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte
27. Compare Van Gogh pre-Paris 1883 (left), and in Paris 1887 (right)
28. Compare Van Gogh’s brushstrokes 1883 (left) and 1887 (right)
31. Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Père Tanguy, 1887-88, oil on canvas Japonisme and emergent Expressionism
32. Two Sunflowers, 1886-7, is one of two paintings of sunflowers that van Gogh presented to Gauguin in an exchange of art works shortly after their first meeting in Paris. It depicts a subject that would come to symbolize Van Gogh's hopes and beliefs. The two cut blooms signify his yearning for a symbiotic union, but sunflowers had multiple other associations from the religious (the cosmos, faith, devotion to God) to the aesthetic (ideal beauty).
33. Mutual friend, Emile Bernard, Bridge at Asnieres, 1887 Cloisonism
34. “Studio of the North” in Pont Aven, 1888 Cloissonism and Japonism Post-Impressionist (Symbolist): linear, flat patterning, subjective rather than objective vision, no visible light source
37. Van Gogh, The Poet’s Garden, September 1988 Painted for Gauguin’s studio
38. Friendship Portraits How could such intense personalities survive two weeks together much less two months (October 23 to December 26, 1888)?
39. Van Gogh, The Night Café, 1888, painted just before Gauguin’s arrival in Arles and at the same time Gauguin was painting The Vision after the Sermon
40. The expressive psychological power of modernist perspective and color. For Van Gogh the saturated vermilion and color contrasts conveyed the dissolute atmosphere of the café, the “terrible passions of humanity.” For Gauguin the unnatural palette conveyed the quasi-mystical state of the Breton women’s imagination
51. Multiple allusions – Symbolism, Primitivism - and self-identification with Van Gogh’s post-ear-cutting identity a saint or Christ-like (here bloody and earless) figure martyred to his art as to a faith.
52. Gauguin gives the Savior his own features and the red hair of van Gogh, making an explicit self-identification with Christ and Van Gogh’s myth. Gauguin’s distant, anthropological attitude toward religious subjects is gone.
54. Paul Gauguin, Self-portrait with Halo, 1889, oil on wood, 31x20“
55. . . . it gives me enormous pleasure when you say the Arlésienne’s portrait, which was based strictly on your drawing, is to your liking. . . . Take this as a work belonging to you and me as a summary of our months of work together. For my part I paid for doing it with another month of illness, but I also know that it is a canvas which will be understood by you and by a very few others, as we would wish it to be understood. Van Gogh
56. Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, Saint Rémy, June 1889, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 1/4“ "This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise," the artist wrote to his brother Theo, "with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big." Rooted in imagination and memory, The Starry Night embodies an inner, subjective expression of van Gogh's response to nature.
58. Gauguin remained preoccupied with Van Gogh as he composed his last memoir, Avant et Après, in the winter of 1902-1903 and took stock of his own life