Saturday, 12 November 2011

Autumn Landscape by Vincent van Gogh

Autumn Landscape (October/November 1885) 
by Vincent van Gogh
oil on canvas laid down on panel, 67cm x 88cm
Location: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

I found this painting by Van Gogh interesting for two reasons.

First I'd never ever have guessed it was a painting by Van Gogh.  I'm familiar with his drawings from his time in the Netherlands - see Van Gogh: Drawing Landscapes (Making A Mark 14.2.07) but wouldn't immediately connect the style in those drawings to his painting of these trees

However L'Allée en Automne (Autumn Landscape) is a painting in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and is attributed to Van Gogh despite the apparent lack of a signature.

Second, the image of the painting in the Museum is much more subdued than the image on Wikipaintings - which is VERY red.  One wonders whether the latter is a copy from a Chinese Art sweatshop or just hyped up in Photoshop to make it look more interesting!  I've subdued this image and reproduced it at the top - but to my mind it still looks too red!

I am persuaded that the painting leans towards brown as, to my mind, all Van Gogh's Dutch paintings seem to lean towards brown.  This was BEFORE he discovered colour and whoever hyped up the wikipaintings version is probably not aware of how truly sombre his Dutch paintings are.  Whether the nature of the colour in his Dutch paintings was an actual colour choice or just a function of the paints he used - which may have lost colour over time - I'm not sure.  I rather suspect it might be a combination of the two.

We certainly all need to be aware that the art we see on the Internet is not necessarily the way the art looks in reality.  Of course, the image on the Fitzwilliam website could just be unnecessarily dull.  If that is indeed the case it certainly wouldn't be the first time I've seen a website image which doesn't look the same as the real thing.  However its colour and tone is much more like other Dutch paintings by Van Gogh that I've seen - and I think this image is much likely to be a true representation of what it actually looks like in reality.

Anybody seen the painting in the Fitzwilliam who knows the answer?

Anybody know why Van Gogh wasn't signing his paintings in 1885?

Are you surprised this is a Van Gogh?

For more about Van Gogh see my posts tagged Van Gogh on Making A Mark or my resource site set up when I was doing my project about his work Vincent van Gogh - Resources for Art Lovers


Casey Klahn said...

Let's see. I don't know the answer to whether this is a good photo of the original or not. I am not surprised it is a van Gogh, as I am a student of his work like yourself.

My response to your post is to agree wholeheartedly with the observation that jpegs vary so tremendously in representing the colors of a painting. I like to go to the museum gift shop and compare the posters to what I've seen in the collections. They are usually good repos.

My suspicion is that the light emitting CRT is a big culprit. Then, the vast difference in color spaces between RYB and CMYK - Vincent painted it in a pigment based space, and the photo was taken in some contemporary way probably using the CMYK color idea.

Fascinating to me.

Making A Mark said...

Then there's the question of whether we are actually looking at what he painted when we see it in the Museum

I have a strong suspicion that Van Gogh's early works may have suffered through the use of pigments where there have been problems with lightfastness.

We know for certain that also occurred in later works - the roses which are in the National Gallery in Washington being the prime example. People look at them and think he's painted white roses whereas in fact we know from his letters that the roses were actually pink and that he set the painting up as an exercise in complementary colours.

I wonder how much he knew about lightfastness at the beginning.

Casey Klahn said...

Yes, his fugitive colors have faded, which he used out of lack of money or ignorance. Another conservation issue may be his canvases.

I need to go over to Amazon and research this book of van Gogh drawing I've been hearing about. Thanks for the link, Katherine.

Making A Mark said...

I've got a detailed post about his drawing on Making A Mark - it relates to the big exhibition that they had a while back at the Met.

See Van Gogh: Drawing media and techniques

There's two books
Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series)
Van Gogh: Master Draughtsman by: Sjraar Van Heugten

Making A Mark said...

I forgot! There's also my 2010 post on this blog about Van Gogh's approach to drawing landscapes


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