Art Love Fest # 1 - Van Gogh's Undergrowth with Two Figures
Recently I've discovered the wonder of the new Google Arts and Culture app. Now, I'll admit, it sounds pretty pretentious and boring on the surface. But, I've actually found that it deepened my affection for art. 

You might have seen this around social media, where people are sharing their selfies matched up to classic paintings. 


Then, of course... I couldn't resist....


After I'd exhausted my facial range, I messed around to see what else was in the app. Then, I found this incredible feature. You can look at paintings made my the great masters like Van Gogh, DaVinci, Picasso and even new art! 

Let me get to the point. I want to start doing blog entries looking at art and just fawning over them like a nerd. It's helpful to me, because I want to start analyzing old paintings to try and learn from the past. I never went to art school and I likely won't, so it's a good exercise for me.
And, if you like looking at art, then this might be fun for you too!

I want to approach this art appreciation the same way I approach my art, do the things I like just because I like them! So, this isn't meant to be a pretentious endeavor. It's just meant for fun!  

There is no right or wrong way to look at art. It's about your reactions and how it makes you feel. So, I encourage you to let me know how you feel in the comments! 

So, let's begin!

Vincent van Gogh - Undergrowth with Two Figures 


Link to the high quality image: goo.gl/GMKm1i   

Van Gogh is one of my all-time favourite artists. His art is so lively and expressive. I've always been drawn into his struggle and his story. 

Most people know the story, so I won't go into it. However, if you'd like to learn more here is a fantastic video about Starry Night

First Impressions

Love. Love. Love. I was browsing through the collections and I didn't even know it was by van Gogh but I knew that I loved it. 

I've had a longstanding love affair with the under-story of the woods. These woods aren't like mine, though. The trees are arranged in straight lines, drawing you into the painting. 

There's a pair of figures, a man and woman linking arms. They're dressed formally, perhaps recently married. 

The grass is thick and exploding with yellow, orange and white flowers. 

Getting Up Close

I'm obsessed with zooming in close to the painting and looking at the brushstrokes. I love them so much. (If you click on the link to the high quality image, you'll get to zoom in and see the detail.)

Look at those deliciously thick and creamy brush strokes! Look at the way he can make people out of blocks of colour! 

L

That gorgeous ultramarine blue of the tree trunk next to the earthy orange of the flowers just sings. I love contrasting colours. The hints of pink actually looks like red peeking through from an underpainting when you look at it up close. 

I love the outlines that he chooses to cover up in some places, and in others he allows it to be bold. He imitates moss on the trees through some smatterings of green, even pushing it to the side to imply that it's a big chunk of moss on the tree in the center. 

This is a close up of the flowers. Just impulsive brushstrokes painted right into the wet green paint. 

Colour
 

When I was first learning to paint, I was told that green is a notoriously difficult colour to paint. So, each time I've found a beautiful painting made out of green, I've always studied it to see what they did. 

Van Gogh takes the green and softens it up by using many shades of soft green. In a few places he uses brighter greens sporadically, like behind the center tree and up in the canopy. He breaks up the green by using warm colours, in the flowers and in the tree trunks. 

He creates a sense of depth and atmosphere by adding blues into the background. The grass in the distance becomes greener and there is less contrast on it's way. 

In the foreground, he places the darkest green. The highest contrast is normally seen in front of you, and it falls off as things get farther away. 

Composition

Composition is basically what features a painting has and where they are in relation to each other. It's part of the ingredients of art. 

Part of what I really love about this painting is the leading lines that draw you into the forest. He has parallel lines of trees that all have the same vanishing point, meaning van Gogh knew his shit. He understood perspective and uses it well here. 


His trees get smaller as the go farther away and get closer together. This is an important feature for making you feel space. I feel the space, Vincent. I feel it. 

He uses the vertical lines of his trees, everything is very right angle. It feels very proper. 

At the same time, this composition is very unique. He puts the largest tree right in the center of the painting. His subject, the two figures, are also placed very close to the center. They seem to be caught between the order of the left side of the painting, and the more natural right side of the painting. 

If he were following the rule of two thirds, his horizon off in the background would be placed a few inches lower than where it is. 

All of this comes together in one spectacular piece. 


History

Undergrowth with Two Figures was painted a month before his tragic death in 1890. 

In his own words, van Gogh describes his painting, “The trunks of the violet poplars cross the landscape perpendicularly like columns,” adding “the depth of Sous Bois is blue, and under the big trunks the grass blooms with flowers in white, rose, yellow, and green.” 

I was excited to see that these were poplars. The green marks that he placed on the right side reminded me of the green sheen that poplars are known for. That little bit made me feel happy and just a bit more connected to the past. 

The Artist 

Van Gogh was known for his battle with mental illness, in fact, he is often pointed to when people talk about the myth of the suffering artist. 

Some artists see this as proof to pursue drug addiction, alcohol and avoid self-care in order to tap into some hidden genius. Yet, Van Gogh didn't paint when he was in his worst bouts of illness. He painted when he felt well. He wasn't a genius because of his illness, he was a genius in spite of his illness. I dearly hope that those suffering artists can pursue self care so that we don't lose more geniuses like van Gogh. 


Final Thoughts

This painting made me feel peaceful and loving. I think that I found a new favourite. The process of diving into this painting was really fun and I hope you enjoyed it. So, if you did, please let me know! 

Either way, I'll probably keep doing it.

Anyway, I'm off! 

Lots of love,


Erin