Art:
Vincent Van Gogh's Paintings


Throughout Vincent William van Gogh's artistic career, he was mocked and
rejected by intellectuals. An intellectual is defined as "a person who is well
informed and intelligent, and interested in activities involving the intellect" (World 1,096). By this definition, we can therefore assume that critics of art, would be intellectuals. The viewpoint critics had of his work then as opposed to the viewpoint they have now is rather ironic. Over the last century, Van Gogh's paintings have increasingly become accepted and appreciated by intellectuals.

During Vincent Van Gogh's lifetime, the general public did not accept or understand him. To illustrate this lack of acceptance by the general public, it is documented that Van Gogh received no recognition and sold only one painting during his lifetime (World 298). Pascal Bonafoux states that during Van Gogh's eight years of painting, he was scorned or, at best, ignored (1). Critical reviews upon his death, were not accepting or understanding of his talent. In Van Gogh A Retrospective, a monthly literary and artistic review of the time, La Wallonie, was cited and showed the lack of understanding or acceptance of Van Gogh's work, at the time of his death:
We do not share the enthusiasm that the art of Mr. Vincent van Gogh evokes in some profound and sincere artists. The Sunflowers, very powerful in color and very beautiful in design, are above all decorative and agreeable to look at: In the Red Vineyard the use of lively tones, specially arranged, produces certain interesting, very curious, metallic effects of light. The value of his other canvases absolutely escapes us (207-208)

A majority of Van Gogh's fellow artists did not accept him. Van Gogh spent two years in Paris, 1886 and 1887. There were several different movements in art, that were just starting. There were the Divisionists, "trying to create the effects of volume and space through the use of small dots that would merge when seen from a distance" (Great 181). There were also the Synthesists, who used large amounts of color and "loaded their work with symbolic and literary meanings" (Great 181). Van Gogh did not fit in either group because of the strictness of their rules. However, he did adapt some new ideas from each group. There were always disagreements among the different movements and artists, and this exhausted Van Gogh. He finally left Paris, for this reason, and settled in Arles to escape all the criticism. Van Gogh was thought of as a very difficult, obstinate and even frightening man. He was an intense person with strong ideas, which did not always meet with his fellow artists' approval.

No one, in general, accepted the Impressionistic Movement in art. "Such pictures were no more than quick impressions to the conservative critics of the time" (Janson 305). Impressionistic painting was considered half-finished sketches that were unworthy of any serious attention. The first major exhibition of Impressionistic painting was in 1874 in a studio on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. It was an unusual showing, in that, it was independent of the usual salons that exhibited and reviewed the art of the time. Diane Kelder, Professor of Art History at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York quoted Louis Leroy, a known critic during the Impressionistic Exhibition of 1874: Impression - I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it ... and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in it's embryonic state is more finished than that seascape (122).

Leroy poked fun at all most all the exhibitors at the showing. The above was his review of a sunrise by Monet.

The reasons for the rejection of Van Gogh's work stemmed from several different areas. The Impressionistic Movement was totally new to everyone. It was definitely a change from the realism of Courbet, that was the known and accepted idea of art in the mid 1800's. The Impressionists began to appear around 1870, to much criticism. The darker more somber colors of Courbet, Rousseau and Millet showed, to the tiniest detail, the reason this period prior to Impressionism was known as the Realism Movement. In contrast, Impressionism was full of brilliant color, light and